Op-Ed

Uyghurs in diaspora should not forget our brothers in Thailand

by admin - Mar 18, 2021 0 Comment

 

Original news link: https://bitterwinter.org/a-sad-world-refuge-day-for-uyghurs-in-thailand/

June 20 is the World Refugee Day. It is a day of hope and new life for many refugees throughout the world. But not for the Uighur refugees who escaped from China and sought asylum in Thailand. Despite international protests, Thailand has continued to keep Uighur refugees in overcrowded detention camps for almost five years and still threatens to send them back to China. 

The Uighur refugees in Thailand have been held since 2014 in detention camps in Songkhla and Sa Kaeo provinces. In July 2015, following an international campaign, 173 Uighurs were released to start their new lives in Turkey. However, despite international outcry, Chinese pressure seems to weigh more on Thailand: merely a week after the release of the 173 Uighurs, the Thai government forcibly returned over 100 Uighur refugees to China, in violation of the non-refoulement principle. The U.S. State Department, the European Union, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights all criticized Thailand. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also condemned the action and said it had occurred despite the Turkish government's attempts to stop the deportations. 

At the moment, there are still 49 Uighur refugees in Thailand being held in overcrowded, unsanitary detention centers in fear of being deported back to China. In January 2015, the refugees complained to a visiting Istanbul-based Uighur journalist about health problems and extremely horrible living conditions in the detention facilities: three Uighurs, including a three-year-old boy, had already died despite the efforts of help groups, such as the Thai Muslim Society, to provide relief. On August 1, 2018, Bilal, a 27-year-old Uighur refugee, died in a detention facility. In response to the mistreatment, some of the Uighur refugees have resorted to extreme measures to force the Thai authorities into a decision on their cases. For example, some went on hunger strike and turned to self-harm in protest and frustration at the length of their detention. In November 2017, 20 Uighurs broke out of their detention facility, 11 of whom managed to flee to Malaysia. In a welcome move, Malaysia released the 11 Uighurs to Turkey.

In a declaration for World Refugee Day, Omer Kanat, Director of the Uighur Human Rights Project (UHRP), stated that “The Uighur refugees held in Thailand should be freed immediately. They have been deprived of their liberty for approximately five years and it is time to end the pain of their uncertainty. If these Uighurs were returned to China, they would be delivered into the hands of their persecutors.” Mr. Kanat added that Thailand “should follow the commendable example of Germany and Sweden and end deportations of Uighurs to China.” 

By virtue of World Refugee Day, we strongly urge the Thailand government to immediately put an end to the mistreatment of the Uighurs who remain in the country. The Uighur community in the diaspora should never forget our brothers in Thailand and should continue to campaign until their release.