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US, EU Condemn Thailand's Deportation of Uighurs

Riot police use pepper spray to push back a group of Uighur protesters who try to break through a barricade outside the Chinese Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, June 9. 2015.

The European Union has joined the United States in condemning Thailand’s forced deportation of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China, where they could face harsh treatment and a lack of due process.

An EU statement Saturday called the deportation a violation of core principles of international humanitarian law.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said it was shocked by the forced deportations, saying it had been given assurances by Thai officials that the individuals would be treated in accordance with international legal standards.

Thailand sent the more than 100 Uighurs, including women and children back to China despite the willingness of Turkey to accept them.

Friday, Thailand closed its embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul after protests against the deportations.

Muslim minority group

Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority living in northwestern China's Xinjiang region. They have long complained of official discrimination.

China said the Uighurs who flee want to join overseas terrorist groups.

Thai government spokesman Major General Verachon Sukhonthapatipak said Thursday the Uighur migrants in question had been detained for over a year.

The spokesman said the migrants were sent back to China after it was determined they were Chinese. About 170 others were found to be Turkish and sent to Turkey.

He said Thailand received assurances from Beijing that the migrants would not be harmed, but that failed to satisfy many human rights groups.

The United States urged Thai officials to allow ethnic Uighurs remaining in Thailand to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice.