Foreign Minister Marise Payne will lobby for the release of a Melbourne-based refugee soccer player held in Thailand when she makes an official visit to the Southeast Asian country.
Hakeem Al-Araibi is being held in detention in Bangkok after being arrested over an Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by his native Bahrain.
Senator Payne will visit Thailand on Thursday to advocate for Mr Al-Araibi’s safe return to Australia after he was detained in November while on holidays.
“Mr Al-Araibi was granted permanent residency by the Australian government in recognition of his status as a refugee,” the minister said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr Al-Araibi headed to Thailand to enjoy his first overseas holiday with his wife since fleeing Bahrain to Australia in 2014 and being granted refugee status in November 2017.
He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalising a Bahraini police station, which he denies.
A former member of the Bahrain national football team, Mr Al-Araibi played in the National Premier Leagues Victoria for semi-professional Pascoe Vale this year.
Cyber security will also be in the spotlight when Senator Payne meets with Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai.
“During the visit, I will sign a new Thailand-Australia Memorandum of Understanding on Cyber and Digital Cooperation, which will support our countries to manage cyber threats and harness opportunities for digital trade,” she said.
The visit comes as Thailand prepares to take up its position as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations chair for 2019.
Thailand is the second largest economy in Southeast Asia and Australia’s 9th largest two-way trading partner.
“The visit will serve as an opportunity to reiterate our support for Thailand’s return to democracy, following elections that are expected to take place this year,” Senator Payne said.