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Press Statement: World Uyghur Congress Calls on Thailand to Release Uyghur Refugees after 10 years in Detention

Press Statement: World Uyghur Congress Calls on Thailand to Release Uyghur Refugees after 10 years in Detention

Press Statement – For Immediate Release 
01 May  2024 
Contact: World Uyghur Congress
+49 89 5432 1999 or [email protected]

The World Uyghur Congress welcomes the communication sent by UN experts concerning the arbitrary detention of at least 43 Uyghur refugees held in Thailand’s Immigration Facilities. On February 22, 2024, five UN Special Rapporteurs and two UN Working Groups sent a letter to the Thai Government expressing their concerns and calling on the Royal Thai Government  to provide information on the decade-long arbitrary detention of the Uyghur men, their access to medical care and the detention conditions where they are being held. Additionally, the letter seeks information from the Thai authorities on their prolonged incommunicado detention and asks if measures are being taken to facilitate communication and visitation rights with families and legal representatives. 

The UN experts also expressed “serious concern” regarding the forcible return of 109 Uyghurs in 2015 “without an assessment of their protection needs under international human rights and refugee laws”  They also urged the Royal Thai government to safeguard the human rights of migrants, ensuring full adherence to the principle of non-refoulement.

“There needs to be an end to the indefinite and arbitrary detention of the Uyghur men in Thailand,” said World Uyghur Congress President, Dolkun Isa. “They should not be detained for fleeing from a repressive environment out of fear of the genocidal policies in East Turkistan.”

Uyghurs are increasingly recognized as a persecuted group in East Turkistan, who face arbitrary detention, mass surveillance, separation of families, torture, forced labour and other human rights atrocities. Those residing outside China continue to face state-led repression abroad. Uyghurs living in third countries without firm settlement status are particularly vulnerable to detention and forced return, with many experiencing harassment and intimidation from local authorities, often acting on behalf of Chinese authorities.

Since March 2014, at least 43 Uyghur men have been held at the IDC Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, Thailand under inhumane and overcrowded conditions. The men were part of a larger group of 350 Uyghur refugees who fled China in 2014, attempting to reach Turkey through Thailand to escape persecution in East Turkistan. In July 2015, 173 Uyghur women and children were transferred to Turkey, while 109 men, women, and children were forcibly returned to China, where their current whereabouts are unknown. Since 2014, a reported number of five  Uyghurs, including two children, have died within the Thai Immigration Centres due to catastrophic conditions. Detainees are confined indoors 24 hours a day in overcrowded, unsanitary cells without access to adequate food, physical exercise, or appropriate medical treatment. 

The World Uyghur Congress is deeply concerned about their indefinite detention and potential deportation to China, where they face serious risk of persecution. The WUC furthermore reiterates its call to the Thai authorities and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to immediately release the detained Uyghurs and to resolutely avoid refoulement, while enabling  resettlement options as soon as possible.