Chanoknan Ruamsap is a political refugee who fled from Section 112

It’s the proverbial “กลืนไม่เข้าคายไม่ออก” (“can’t swallow it, can’t spit it out”) situation for an international organization operating in a country like Thailand.

On the one hand, you can’t do humanitarian work without collaboration from the local government. On the other hand, you fear the wrath of the local government if your humanitarian work exposes the local government to human rights abuses.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) faces such a dilemma.

Chanoknan Ruamsap is a political refugee who fled from Section 112, lese majeste charges. She’s a former student at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, majoring in sociology. She currently resides in Gwangju, South Korea.

Chanoknan escaped in 2018 following an order for her arrest by the Prayut Chan-o-cha military junta government. Her alleged crime was sharing the December 2016 article on His Majesty the King by BBC. The same charge Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa spent two years in jail for.

On 1 April, she posted on her Facebook Page that UNHRC South Korea’s PR team approached her to do a short documentary.

The idea behind the documentary is “to change the image of refugees,” that they are not only of particular skin color or particular religion and that they can be anyone.

According to Chanoknan, UNHCR regional headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, rejected her segment of the project, citing the reasons that they “fear for her safety when she will return to Thailand” and that what she has to say “may affect relations between UNHCR and the Thai government.”

Chanoknan explained in her post that in the documentary, she wanted to discuss four issues:
– Anyone can become a refugee, regardless of skin color or religion.
– Refugees want legal status more than money.
– UNHCR’s representation of “refugees” does not represent “all refugees.”
– “Stop selling the impoverished image of refugees. Start promoting the human dignity of refugees.”

Chanonknan said of the refugees selected for the film, she’s the only one rejected, but the director has agreed with her to do a separate film.

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