Thailand has refused to extradite members of the Russian band Bi-2, as well as those suspected and accused of political offences, according to human rights principles.

All Russian rock band Bi-2 members have left Thailand “in accordance with their wishes and Thai immigration laws and regulations”, Thai Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke said.

Thailand came under scrutiny from international human rights activists after immigration officials arrested seven members of the band for not having work permits. The rock band members, who have criticised Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, told media afterwards that they feared deportation to Russia.

Five of the seven Bee-2 musicians entered Thailand on Russian passports. At least four are reportedly Israeli citizens, including the band’s two founding members, Alexander Uman and Yegor Bortnik (recognised as a foreign agent in Russia). The latter is also an Australian citizen.

Alexander “Shura” Uman, guitarist and vocalist of Bi-2, said that when he arrived at Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, the band exhaled as they were tired after their ordeal. Alexander Uman also described the conditions under which the group was held in a Thai prison as “horrible and bestial.”

Uman thanked Israeli, American and Australian diplomats, as well as human rights organisations, for working to get the group out of Thailand. A handful of supporters greeted the musicians on an early morning flight with signs welcoming the band to Israel.

Bi-2 has one million subscribers on its YouTube channel and 376,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. Andrei Lugovoi, a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, called the band members “scum” for supporting the Nazi regime in Ukraine.

“Bangkok was right to deny Moscow’s demand to send the activist artists back so that the musicians face persecution in Russia,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director.

Members of Russian rock band Bi-2 were arrested in Phuket last Thursday because they did not have work permits to work in Thailand, confirmed deputy immigration police chief, Major General Pantama Nutnarot.

When it was discovered that the band members did not have work permits, the musicians were sent to an investigator to face charges and then to a detention room at the immigration police station in Bangkok.

It is not known whether Thailand has signed a special extradition agreement with Russia, but persons wanted for political or ethnic reasons are not extradited from Thailand, Major General Panthama explained.

According to human rights principles, extradition is ruled out in case of political charges. Even if a person is a criminal, the immigration service cannot force a person to leave the country. The authorities will allow them to apply to international organisations such as the UNSC or the International Organisation for Migration to become political refugees.

“According to human rights principles, those arrested can even be released on bail to live as refugees, but with the condition not to work or engage in activities contrary to Thai laws,” said Major General Panthama.

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