Press Release: Investigate Death of Uyghur refugee in Thai immigration detention facility; remaining Uyghur detainees must be released
Uyghur refugee dies after almost nine years arbitrarily detained in Thailand´s immigration detention facilities.
The Royal Thai Government must investigate the death of Aziz Abdullah, 49, a farmer of Uyghur ethnicity, who died on Saturday 11 February in the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center (IDC) having spent almost nine years in immigration detention. Aziz Abdullah reportedly died of pneumonia.
Aziz Abdullah was one of a group of 50 Uyghur detainees, almost all of whom are being held at IDC Suan Phlu. These detainees are part of a larger Uyghur group who arrived in Thailand between 2013 and 2014. At the time, more than 350 Uyghur men, women, and children fleeing China were arrested and detained by the Thai authorities. In July 2015, at least 170 women and children were transferred to Turkey. Some weeks later, 109 men and women were deported to China. No further information on their treatment or whereabouts is available.
The forcible return of Uyghurs to China from Thailand has been strongly condemned internationally including by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture expressed clear concern to the Thai authorities in 2015 that the deportation of Uyghur refugees “would amount to refoulement and put them at risk of being tortured or subjected to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The United Nations’ human rights office´s report released in September 2022, accused China of serious human rights violations that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” in its mass detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in East Turkistan.
This remaining group, now 49 Uyghur refugees, has been detained in several immigration detention centres across Thailand and a number of the group were first detained as children. They have been denied access to a lawyer, to UNHCR, and adequate medical care. Such conditions fall below the legal and human rights standards set in Thai law and are life-threatening. Detainees are confined indoors 24-hours a day in overcrowded, unsanitary cells without access to adequate food, physical exercise, or appropriate medical treatment.
During almost nine years of detention, four Uyghur refugees have died, including two children. A newborn baby died in June 2014, while 3-year-old Abdullah Abdulweli reportedly died due to Tuberculosis in December 2014. In August 2018, Bilal, a 29 year old Uyghur man detained since March 2014, reportedly died of cancer. Aziz Abdullah´s death highlights the desperate situation for Uyghur refugees. He died having been separated from his wife and children for the almost nine years of his detention in Thailand.
In view of this urgent situation, our organisations call upon on the Royal Thai Government to:
- Carry out a full and publicly available investigation into the death of Aziz Abdullah;
- End the indefinite and arbitrary detention of this group; release Uyghur refugees detained in Thailand;
- Allow Uyghurs refugees to access resettlement.
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On 8 June 2022, Eight years after the Chinese government loaded a plane with 109 Uyghur refugees in Thailand and flew them to China against their will, 52 Uyghur organizations issued a joint statement calling for an end to the prolonged arbitrary detention of the then 52 Uyghurs in Thai immigration detention centers. On 25 June 2022, more than a dozen rights groups in Thailand handed the Foreign Affairs Committee of parliament’s lower house a petition calling for the Royal Thai Government not to forcibly return detained Uyghurs.