The Thai government confirmed on Thursday that more than 100 ethnic Uighurs have been deported back to China despite warnings from international organisations.
During an interview with Thai Radio 105MHZ, government spokesman Major General Verachon Sukhonthapatipak said that the Uighurs, who had been in Thailand for a year and were sent back to China on Thursday morning, had Chinese nationality, adding that their safety was “guaranteed according to humanitarian principles.”
He also said that another 170 were Turkish citizens so they were sent to Turkey.
Human rights organisations have voiced concerns over the repatriation of the Uighurs.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed shock over the decision, saying that the Thai royal government reassured the agency that it would handle the issue in accordance with the international legal standards and under the agency’s protection.
"While we are seeking further clarifications on what happened exactly, we are shocked by this deportation of some 100 people and consider it a flagrant violation of international law," said Volker Turk, UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
"I strongly urge the Thai authorities to investigate this matter and appeal to Thailand to honor its fundamental international obligations, notably the principle of non-refoulement, and to refrain from such deportations in the future," he added.
The New York Based Human Rights Watch also strongly criticised the Thai government’s decision to deport the Uighurs, calling it as an "outrageous rights abuse."
“We are still trying to find out details, but if confirmed it is a clear violation of international law as the Uighurs could face serious human rights abuses in China," Sunai Phasuk, representative for Human Rights Watch in Thailand, told Anadolu Agency.
“Thai authorities have often shown very little regard for humanitarian considerations when sending back people where they could face rights violations, as it has been the case in the past for Rohingya or Hmong,” he added.
Following the announcement of the deportation, a group of people gathered and stormed into the Thai honorary consulate-general in Istanbul.
The angry protesters from the self-proclaimed East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association smashed the windows and broke down the doors of the building and entered into the consulate.
Nine of them were arrested by Turkish police after they prayed outside the consulate, according to Turkish officials.
Turkey has cultural ties with Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim minority in China's far west Xinjiang region. The Chinese rule expose cultural and religious oppression to the ethnic group, preventing them from practising their faith openly. They have been banned from wearing beards and headscarves and are prevented from teaching their children the Islamic holy book of Quran.