Syrian refugee father seeks help over detention, extortion

A Syrian national has petitioned the Justice Ministry to investigate the detention of his son and himself, and alleged extortion, by some police and three police volunteers from Lumpini police station.

Both the father, Yasur al-Halabi Mohammad (from the Thai script), and son, Wael al-Halabi Mohammad (from the Thai script), have documents issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  recognising them as refugees, the 47-year-old father said through an interpreter on Monday,  when he lodged his petition with the ministry through deputy permanent secretary Dusadee Arayawuth.

Panchaphat Lertthiraruangkul, the interpreter, said the Syrian and his 23-year-old son migrated to Thailand three years ago. The son worked at as a barber on soi Nana 3 before his arrest.

In June, people claiming to be police volunteers with Lumpini police station arrived at the barber’s shop in company with a number of police. They arrested him for allegedly overstaying his visa and took him to Lumpini police station, Mr Panchaphat said.

Three people claiming to be police volunteers later demanded tens of thousands of baht from the father in return for offering to help get his son released, he said.

The father had paid them on several occasions, a total of 550,000 baht, but his son had not been released as promised by those people.

“When the father inquired at Lumpini police station about the promised release of his son, he was detained on the same charge, which led him to pay them another 150,000 baht in exchange for his freedom,” Mr Panchaphat said.

However, the son was transferred to the Immigration Bureau and when the father visited him recently his son was bleeding from the mouth and nose. This prompted the father to seek justice from the ministry, Mr Panchaphat said.

The father provided proof of his refugee status and that of his son when meeting Pol Col Dusadee on Monday, Mr Panchaphat said. Their refugee status would remain valid until the war in Syria ends.

“As far as I’m concerned, extortion happens constantly in the Nana area and any foreigners who refuse to pay the demanded bribes ended up being detained by the police,” he said.

Pol Col Dusadee said the ministry would forward the father’s complaint to the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), along with a request for an investigation into the matter.

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