Thailand’s internal political pressures on its Bangkok UNHCR office has resulted in the arrest of at least 50 Pakistani Christian asylum seekers, a church leader there told World Watch Monitor.

On March 7, the Chief of Pakistan’s Christian Congress wrote to the Thai Prime Minister, about arrests of those registered with UNHCR.

“I wish to submit that Pakistani Christians are not economic immigrants…but a socially and politically oppressed and persecuted community in Pakistan now staying in transit in Thailand waiting to be transferred to countries which will accept them as Refugees under international norms and laws enshrined by the UN Refugee Agency.”

Pakistan’s Express Tribune reports on how Christians who flee Islamic extremism have to go into hiding across Southeast Asia while waiting to receive UN refugee status.

They “no longer fear for their lives, but face other fears like arrest, hunger and the possibility that they will never be able to live freely. Unable to work legally and with no legal status in Thailand, they and others like them must remain mostly hidden while they scrape by on odd jobs and donations from churches, aid groups and individuals.”

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol and does not have a formal national asylum framework.

Christian Broadcasting News has reported “police in Thailand have arrested more than 400 Pakistani Christian immigrants, including children.”