Auckland Court Hears Refugee Bid from Buddhist Temple Members

January 17, 2006

Source: New Zealand Herald,2222,0,0,1,0

On January 17, 2006 the New Zealand Herald reported, "Hundreds of people from a Buddhist temple in Auckland applied en masse for refugee status, a court was told today. John Boggs, an intelligence analyst with the New Zealand Immigration Service, said claims from Thais escalated in 1998/99. He was appearing as a Crown witness at the Auckland District Court today in the case of John Hikuwai, who is charged with immigration offences. It was the top country for people seeking refugee status for the following four years, Mr Boggs said. The total number of asylum seekers from all countries peaked at 3000 in 1999, taking years to settle appeals and final determination. Mr Boggs said Thai claims of persecution were manifestly unfounded. As a result of the influx and abusive claims, the Government suspended a visa-free arrangement with Thailand in September 2000. But Mr Boggs said that around the end of that year a 'new scheme' emerged, involving members of the Thammagay (Wat Thai) Buddhist Group of New Lynn filing refugee claims. They alleged fear of Thai authorities because of their religion and also fear of Muslims on their return to Thailand. Some 285 Thai nationals lodged refugee applications. Mr Boggs said that the main people behind the scheme were two monks from Thailand, a Bangkok businssman and Hikuwai.