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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs