PRESS RELEASE: WUC CALLS FOR THE THAI GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS PLIGHT OF UYGHUR REFUGEES AFTER UYGHUR MAN DIES IN CUSTODY
The World Uyghur Congress is deeply saddened by the recent death of a 27-year-old Uyghur asylum seeker, Bilal, in an immigration detention facility in Thailand on August 1, 2018. Bilal was part of a larger group of Uyghur refugees detained without charge since March 2014 after fleeing China and passed away from cancer.
According to reports, the local Thailand Islamic Organization along with Thai police helped with Bilal’s funeral arrangements and buried him at the local Islamic cemetery.
The WUC president Dolkun Isa expresses his concern saying, “one tragic death is too many. If the Thai government doesn’t take any immediate actions to resolve the Uyghur cases, we will likely to see more results like this.”
Uyghurs asylum seekers who have remained in detention since March 2014 find themselves in increasingly desperate conditions. Multiple human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Fortify Rights, and Amnesty International all claim that conditions inside these detention facilities are so inhospitable that they breach international law, and additionally violate the human rights of those unfortunate enough to live inside them.
Some have even turned to hunger strikes and self-harm because of the length of their stay and in the hope of pressing for a decision made on their cases. The Uyghurs often stay in overcrowded cells, increasing the chances of contracting infections and other health problems. Access to hospital facilities has also been limited.
Following years of inaction from the Thai government, some of the group’s members began a number of hunger strikes to protest their poor treatment, challenge the legality of their indefinite detention, and bring greater attention to their circumstances.
As of August 2018, a group of around 60 Uyghurs still remain in Thai immigration detention facilities waiting for the Thai government to make a decision on their case. The group of 60 was part of the much larger group—some of whom were transferred to Turkey and others transferred to China in retaliation in July 2015.
Concern exists because of the forcible return of 109 Uyghurs to China in July 2015 with no oversight. The group disappeared into China and no information has yet been released on their well-being, though Uyghurs who have been forcibly returned for years from China’s neighbours have been at high risk of torture and mistreatment.
On November 20, 2017, a group of 20 escaped a facility in the southern Songkhla province close to the Malaysian border, but part of the group was re-captured and remains in detention before Malaysian courts decide on their cases.
We are therefore requesting that the Thai government provide adequate medical and humanitarian assistance for those with health problems. We also request that Thai authorities to take immediate action to ensure that the remaining Uyghurs are able are able to be resettled in a third country and are not forcibly returned to China.