All 7 members of the Belarusian ‘rebel’ rock band Bi-2 have been deported to Israel. The band was arrested for working illegally after performing at a concert in Patong. It’s understood a number of them were travelling on Russian passports, leading human rights groups to urge the Thai government not to deport them to Russia.
The band are long-time critics of the Russian government and Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. Elaine Pearson, Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, had warned that they would not be safe if sent to Russia.
“Under no circumstances should they be deported to Russia, where they could face arrest or worse for their outspoken criticisms of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s war in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, former Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, herself in exile, joined the chorus of calls for Thailand to refrain from sending the band to Russia.
“I’m worried about the situation involving the Belarus-born rock band Bi-2. It’s now absolutely clear that Russia is behind the operation to deport the band.”
The Russian government has previously slapped the group with sanctions and described them as “sponsors of terrorism” and, in the case of two band members, “foreign agents”.
The band has accused Moscow of being behind their arrest – specifically the Russian consulate in Phuket. It’s understood that prior to coming to Phuket, the band had performed in Pattaya without being arrested.
However, the organisers of the Patong concert say that while the band had all the correct permits, Thai Immigration had mistakenly issued them with tourist visas, which is what led to their arrest.
Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in Bangkok has issued a statement to say the Phuket authorities carried out the arrest without any involvement from the consulate.
“Local authorities act in their own interests and do not need anyone’s advice or recommendations; (they) independently carry out supervisory activities and make decisions in relevant areas.”
SOURCE: The Phuket News