News / Asia

Rights Groups Want Protection for 220 Uighurs Detained in Thailand

Ethnic Uighur Muslims line up beside a police van in Khlong Hoi Khong of southern Songkhla province, Thailand, Mar. 15, 2014.
Ethnic Uighur Muslims line up beside a police van in Khlong Hoi Khong of southern Songkhla province, Thailand, Mar. 15, 2014.
Ron Corben
— In southern Thailand, more than 200 suspected ethnic Uighur Muslims are being held by Thai immigration authorities who say they will deport the men, women and children to China. But, rights groups are calling for humanitarian protection for the group.

Thai immigration police said the 78 men, 60 women and 82 children were believed to be ethnic Uighurs from China's western Xinijang region.  They were found hiding in a rubber plantation in Thailand's southern Songkla province.

The group has spoken with officials from the Turkish Embassy, which, along with the United Nations refugee agency, has been providing assistance.  They have refused to talk with Thai or Chinese Embassy officials.

Thai immigration officers said they would press charges against the group for illegal entry to Thailand and call for their deportation.

But U.S.-based Human Rights Watch is calling for the United Nations to assess the group's refugee status and ensure they are not forcibly returned to China.

Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with the rights group, said Thailand had an international obligation to ensure the safety of the Uighurs.

"Thailand has an obligation under international customary law not to return people to a place where they would face danger. So that is a very core principle according to international law. So even though Thailand is not a party to the UN refugee convention it still has an obligation under law not to send people back to face dangers," said Sunai.

The U.S. State Department also urged Thailand to provide protection to the group and ensure their humanitarian needs were met.

Thai police reports said the Uighurs left China's Xinijiang region by air to the southern Chinese city of Kunming, then went south through neighboring countries Burma or Laos, or possibly Vietnam and Cambodia before reaching Thailand. The next step was to Malaysia and a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Turkey.

Trafficking gangs, said to be operating out of Malaysia, charge as much as $40,000 for each person.

Rights groups warn of increasing numbers of ethnic Uighurs fleeing China amid rising tensions in Xinijiang.  Chinese authorities have tightened security there following attacks by suspected Uighurs on Tiananmen Square in Beijing and more recently at Kunming railway station that left 29 people dead and 140 wounded.

Human Rights Watch said Uighurs faced ethnic discrimination, religious repression and increasing cultural suppression by Chinese authorities who say they are fighting against separatism and terrorism.

In recent years, despite efforts by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to intervene, Cambodia forcibly returned 20 Uighurs to China in 2009, while Malaysia deported six men in late 2012.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: SEATO
March 15, 2014 6:09 PM
Thailand,under no circumstances,should deport these poor Uighur refugees back to China,where they would be subjected to barbaric punishment and torture. Israel has always welcome all persecuted Jewish from all over the world. Turkey should do the same and provide refuge to all Uighurs since they are of Turkish origin and are the descendants of the Ottoman empire,and Turkey should openly condemn China's systematic ethnic cleansing and forced-assimilation in Xinjang

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid