News broke yesterday that dozens of Uyghurs from all around Thailand had been rounded up and impounded in a detention facility in Bangkok, raising fears among non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that the government plans to deport them back to China.
It sparked a sharp response from Thailand’s Islamic council, and seven local NGOs, who released a joint statement questioning the Uyghur detainees’ transfer to Bangkok.
“This action raised concerns among the civil society network monitoring the Uyghur situation that the Thai government will force the Uyghurs to return to their country of origin at the request of the Chinese government.”
Chalida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, a Thai NGO that assists Uyghur refugees in the country believes the Uyghurs’ relocation to the capital is because three Uyghur men escaped from an immigration detention centre in central Thailand on July 11. The whereabouts of the three men are still unknown.
“Our sources have told us that Uyghurs were brought from different detention centres across the country and are now all held together at the Suan Plu Immigration Detention Centre. We fear they could be sent back under China’s pressure. So far, they are still here, as far as we know.”
Chalida made it known that about 56 Uyghurs have been left in limbo in Thailand after entering the country illegally while fleeing from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China in 2014.
The NGOs believe the Uyghurs are being held in detention centres because Thailand is under pressure to send them back to China and does not know what to do with them. But Thailand denies this.
Panitan Wattanayagorn, the chief security adviser to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, yesterday said the Uyghurs were moved to a detention centre in Bangkok for safety reasons.
Panitan, who refused to answer whether the Thai government would send the Uyghurs back to China, said…
“For a broad overview of solving the troubles, we can say that they escaped death to stay with us. We have to handle them according to international standards and obligations.
“We won’t breach their basic rights. That is there is no separation of the families. But the problem is more convoluted than that, and we try to solve it bit by bit.”
Chalida insists national human rights commissioners should be informed of the Uyghurs’ relocation and be allowed to visit to monitor their health.
The NGOs, and Muslim council, also told the government to be mindful of an incident in 2015 when it deported 109 Uyghurs to China. The fates of those are still unknown.
“Thailand must not make the same mistake twice. There is no reasonable reason for the Chinese government to ask the Thai government to force these Uyghurs to return to China where they will face persecution.”
The Uyghur people are a Muslim minority who have endured repression by the Chinese government for a number of years after several terrorist attacks on the mainland were carried out by extremists. The last of which was believed to be in 2017.
SOURCE: Radio Free Asia
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