Thailand’s prime minister and top security body will investigate and rule on members of the detained Russian band Bi-2

Thailand’s prime minister and top security officials will rule on the case of a dissident Russian-Belarusian rock band detained on charges of violating immigration laws, Thailand’s foreign minister said Wednesday, as calls to not deport members of the group to Russia intensified.

Thai authorities detained members of the band Bi-2 last week after the musicians gave a concert in Phuket, a southern resort island popular with Russian holidaymakers.

Human rights organisation Human Rights Watch said the band members would face “persecution” if they returned to Russia, pointing to comments by a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accusing the group of “sponsoring terrorism”.

“The National Security Council is looking into the matter and finding out details, including the names and nationalities of the band members,” Thai Foreign Minister Parnpri Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters.

Several members of B-2 have dual citizenship, including Australian and Israeli citizenship.

“If the band members have not broken any laws, we can’t just deport them because there are international laws on that,” Parnpri said.

“But if they have broken laws, we must act in accordance with established legal procedures,” the minister added.

The National Security Council is headed by Prime Minister Settha Thavisin. It comprises senior ministers, military and police officers. It is the kingdom’s main body coordinating national security policy.

One of the band members, singer Egor Bortnik, known by his stage name Leva, has already left Thailand,” Bi-2’s official Telegram channel reported.

“Bi-2’s Lyova flew to Israel; the rest of the band members are still in a migration prison in a cramped 80-person cell,” the post said.

Thai authorities confirmed they had arrested “seven or eight” people in Phuket last week for performing without proper work permits and said the offenders faced deportation. A police source said “four or five” were currently being held at a detention centre in Bangkok.

The organisers of the concerts in Thailand, VPI Event, said all necessary permits had been obtained, but the group had been mistakenly issued tourist visas.

“Usually, in such cases, the immigration authorities would contact the event organiser to impose appropriate sanctions. But in this case, the attention of immigration authorities focused solely on the artists,” VPI Event said.

VPI Event also said that the Russian consulate has been conducting a targeted campaign to cancel concerts since December.

“We are making every effort to release the artists but are facing unprecedented pressure at every stage. We hope for a favourable resolution of the situation as soon as possible,” VPI Event said.

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