(New York) – The government of Thailand should stop forcibly sending people of Turkic ethnicity to China, where they face persecution, Human Rights Watch said today. The Thai government announced that on July 9, 2015, it had returned about 100 “Uighur immigrants” to China, while at least 65 other people of Turkic ethnicity remain in immigration detention.
“Thailand has cravenly caved to pressure from Beijing and robbed these people of their only protections,” said Sophie Richardson, China director. “The risks to Uighurs forcibly returned to China are grim and well established, so it’s urgent to protect anyone in Thailand who the Chinese claims is a Uighur against forced expulsion or return.”
Those deported were among several groups of people of Turkic ethnicity who had arrived in Thailand in 2014 and have been held in immigration detention ever since. Some have claimed to be Turkish and asked to be sent to Turkey. On at least two occasions, Thai authorities – in violation of international law on the protection of asylum seekers – allowed Chinese officials access to these groups, despite the groups’ unwillingness to speak with those officials.
The July 9 forced expulsion, or refoulement, took place shortly after the Thai government allowed approximately 170 ethnic Turkic women and children from these groups to go to Turkey. The Chinese government publicly condemned Turkey for allowing this transfer. A Thai government deputy spokesman, Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak, said that China had given Thailand assurances that the deportees would be safe in China.