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Rights groups alarmed over Thai detention of asylum seekers

BANGKOK — Human rights groups have expressed alarm at Thailand’s detention of more than 160 asylum seekers from hill tribe ethnic minorities in Vietnam and Cambodia, saying they face possible persecution if returned to their homelands.

Thai and international rights groups said the asylum seekers were rounded up Tuesday in a northern suburb of Bangkok and charged with immigration law violations.

The Thai group Human Rights Lawyers Association said some had cards from the U.N. refugee agency identifying them as having been certified as refugees. The group said the detainees, from the Jarai and other minorities, “fled persecution, discrimination and repression” in Vietnam and Cambodia.

A human rights worker with the group Fortify Rights said the 38 detainees from Cambodia could be sent directly back under a bilateral agreement.