Myanmar beauty queen stuck in airport limbo

Myanmar beauty queen stuck in airport limbo

Supporters appeal to Thai authorities not to send junta critic Han Lay back to Myanmar

Han Lay, seen here during a media interview in March last year, is seeking to obtain refugee status. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Han Lay, seen here during a media interview in March last year, is trying to obtain refugee status. (Bangkok Post file photo)

A beauty queen who spoke out against Myanmar’s military rulers remained stranded at Suvarnabhumi airport for a third day on Friday, hoping to be granted entry, as activists and her employer urged authorities not to send her back to her homeland.

Han Lay captured international attention last year with a moving speech at the Miss Grand International pageant in Bangkok, where she needed urgent help for Myanmar’s people. She’s got been denied entry by the Immigration Bureau, despite having taken refuge in Thailand for the past year.

The 23-year-old model, whose real name is Thaw Nandar Aung, was stopped at the airport on Wednesday after returning from a brief visit to Vietnam. Immigration officials said she was using invalid travel documents. Local reports on Thursday speculated that the Myanmar government might have cancelled her passport.

In a Facebook post, Han Lay said Myanmar police were at the airport seeking to meet her, but she refused and had contacted the Us refugee agency.

The event management team that works together Han Lay said they hoped she could re-enter Thailand.

“The only thing we wish is her never to return to Myanmar because if she returns, we don’t not know what will happen to her, ” said a representative, who declined to be identified because she was not authorised to speak to media.

Asked about Han Lay’s case on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said authorities “did not make an arrest and also have no plans to send her anywhere at this stage”.

Thailand has often been swept up in tugs of war between countries seeking the return of citizens and activists who say those individuals will be persecuted if sent home.

These included an Australia-based football player arrested in Thailand in 2018 at the request of Bahrain for criticising its monarchy, and an 18-year-old Saudi woman who was stranded at the Bangkok airport after fleeing her family.

A Myanmar junta spokesman cannot be reached for comment on Han Lay’s case.

She and her manager have said she was the topic of an Interpol red notice, the highest alert level for a person. Thai police and the Immigration Bureau have declined to comment and Reuters could not independently confirm such a notice.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said its policy was to not confirm individual cases.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said on Twitter that Thai authorities should grant Han Lay protection and “under no circumstances” get back her to Myanmar.