Three Uyghurs escape from detention centre in Thailand

Songkhla Immigration Detention Centre

Thai police are still searching for three Uyghur men who escaped from an immigration detention centre in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, 200 miles south of Bangkok, on Monday.

The trio – 25 year old Ali, 30 year old Abdulla and 29 year old Abdullah – broke out of their cell on Monday morning by using a sharp tool to cut through the metal bars and escaped.

“We are searching for them, and I’m awaiting reports from the ground. The search is a bit slow because of the public holidays lately,” said Pol. Col. Rattapong Tiasud, an investigator at the immigration bureau.

The men are three of about 50 Uyghurs currently being held at detention centres across Thailand.

The Uyghurs are a Muslim minority ethnic group residing in Xinjiang province in northwestern China. As documented by numerous human rights groups, the Uyghurs have long endured persecution and repression by the Chinese government.

An exodos of Uyghurs fled Xinjiang in 2013 and 2014, with around 475 Uyghurs in total fleeing to Thailand in those years. In 2017, the Chinese government began “reeducating” Uyghurs by detaining them in camps, causing several more waves of Uyghurs to seek asylum in other countries, including Thailand.

Rights activists have said that many Uyghurs who are caught and detained in Thailand are often trying to enter Malaysia, a Muslim country, via Thailand. Many are caught and detained by Thai authorities near the southern border in Songkhla province.

Uyghurs often end up in Thai immigration detention centres for years on end because China wants them back while Thailand hasn’t decided what to do with them, according to the Director of People’s Empowerment Foundation Chalida Tajaroensuk. The foundation is a Thai NGO which assists Uyghur refugees in the country.

“[Some Uyghurs in Thailand] have been detained for nearly 10 years. So the government should consider releasing them and finding them a good place to live… and never, ever send them back to China because that means sending them to death,” said Chalida.

“Also, we would be very grateful if the Thai government allowed them to leave for third-country asylum. But it has hit a deadlock due to the Chinese government’s pressure on Thailand.”

In 2015, Thailand sent around 100 detained Uyghurs back to China. At the same time, Thailand sent 170 Uyghurs back to Turkey after identifying them as Turkish citizens.

Last week, the World Uyghur Congress announced it was one of 52 international organisations calling for an end to the detention of Uyghurs in Thailand.

In June, more than a dozen Thai and international organisations handed a petition to parliament’s foreign affairs committee to urge the Thai government not to send detained Uyghurs back to China. The foreign affairs committee have acknowledged the petition and has assured it will be addressed.

In 2017, 25 Uyghurs used broken tiles to break out of a Thai detention centre, having been detained in 2014.

SOURCE: Benar News

Thailand News


Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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