Thai authorities detained Burmese beauty queen Han Lay, real name Thaw Nandar Aung, at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport after she was denied entry into the country and refused to board a return flight to Vietnam, where she had gone only for a short holiday. The 23-year-old has been living in Thailand since she spoke out against the February 2021 coup in her home country of Burma.
“I had to spend the night at the airport immigration. I was going to be sent back to Vietnam this morning, but my sister contacted UNHCR [The UN Refugee Agency]. UNHCR told me not to board the plane to Vietnam, [and that] I [could] be sent back to Myanmar.” Han Lay said.
“I did not commit any crimes. I only used my rights to speak out about what I stand against. I still do not feel okay even if I am abroad. I feel more for the people in Myanmar,” she added.
Han Lay told DVB that she was informed by Thai immigration police that her name was placed on an Interpol list by the Burmese junta. She was crowned Miss Grand International 2020 in Thailand one month after the 2021 coup. The beauty pageant had been delayed by one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Han Lay is an outspoken critic of Burma’s junta and has requested several times for the international community to assist in restoring democracy to her country. If Han Lay were to be forcibly repatriated to Burma she could face charges of sedition under Section 124/1 of the Penal Code. The maximum penalty is up to 20 years in prison. Burma’s junta executed four democracy activists last July.
Thai immigration police have said Han Lay is being held because she does not have a valid visa to enter Thailand. The UNCHR refuses to comment on its cases.