AKHA CRUSADER: US activist detained at Suan Phlu
Published on Apr 18, 2004
American had filed human rights complaint with UN
An American activist who has campaigned vigorously against government mistreatment of hilltribe people in the far north of Thailand has been detained, and looks set to be deported, by the Immigration Police.
Matthew McDaniel, 46, was arrested when he went to extend his visa at the Mae Sai immigration office on Thursday, according to a friend who preferred not to be named.
The American was transferred to the Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok. He told his family and associates on Friday that he had been declared persona non grata and deemed a threat to the country.
McDaniel believes the authorities want to expel him from Thailand because he arranged for a US lawyer to file a case about human-rights abuses with the United Nations, his colleague said yesterday.
A spokesman from the Immigration Department did not return a phone call late yesterday to confirm that McDaniel was being deported.
The American is from Salem, Oregon. He is married to an Akha woman, who is pregnant, his friend said yesterday. He also has four other children, who live in a remote village in Chiang Rai province.
The move to deport McDaniel was not unexpected, his colleague noted, adding that the US Embassy in Bangkok was aware of the case.
McDaniel produced "Akha Voices", a 270-page book which details disturbing allegations of abductions and extrajudicial killings by Thai army and police officers that it claims amount to "ethnic cleansing".
He has also attacked "the deceptive practices of US-based missionaries and their assumption of control over Akha children and their bold ongoing effort to completely eradicate Akha traditional culture with carefully placed lies".
The introduction to the book says McDaniel "is radically opposed to oppressive Thai government policies that destroy the Akha people at their most basic level of existence, their right to grow food, while at the same time trying to portray to the public and tourists that the government is the benevolent saviour of these 'unfortunate' people".
He is also described as a staunch critic of the US 'war on drugs', which he says has resulted in thousands of Akha being imprisoned "at the hands of the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]".
The book lists Akha people imprisoned in jails in Thailand and controversial circumstances surrounding some of these arrests. It says McDaniel has worked with the Akha in Thailand and Burma since 1991.
McDaniel is assumed to have been connected with leaflets distributed in Chiang Mai late last year seeking volunteers to "help SAVE an Akha village from loosing all its land".
Villagers in Hoo Yoh "had been told by government officials they could no longer farm land they had been farming for nearly 40 years. The villagers had been given no say in the process," the leaflets said.
The dispute affected more than 1,000 people, or 250 families, it said. The campaign encouraged people to come to Chiang Rai to join a protest camp and to read the website www.akha.org.