Uighurs found in Thailand: Don’t return them to China, US urges

Uighurs from the far western region of Xinjiang, China, rest inside a temporary shelter after they were detained at the immigration regional headquarters near the Thailand-Malaysia border in Hatyai, Songkhla*

The U.S. State Department is urging Thailand to protect about 200 Muslims discovered earlier this week in a jungle camp.

Police found the group Wednesday at a secluded jungle camp in southern Songkhla province. Authorities are attempting to determine their nationality, but suspect they are Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang autonomous region. The group includes 82 children.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. is concerned about the group and wants Thailand to provide full protection to them and to ensure that their humanitarian needs are met.

Human Rights Watch urged Thailand not to repatriate the group to China where Uighurs face repression. Xinjiang is the center of a low-level Muslim separatist movement.

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*Songkhla is one the southern Muslim provinces of Thailand, where a jihad for a separate state has been raging for years, killing thousands. Thailand certainly does not need any more Muslims.

Thailand has good relations with China. An article in The New York Times adds:

In 2009, Cambodia deported 20 Uighurs to China over the objections of prominent international organizations, including the United Nations. The Uighurs had arrived in Cambodia during a particularly tense moment in Xinjiang, when the Chinese government was cracking down in the aftermath of bloody ethnic rioting carried out mostly by Uighur men that summer.

And Malaysia was similarly criticized for deporting six Uighurs in December 2012. In both cases, Human Rights Watch said the countries had violated international law.

Even majority Muslim Malaysia deported them so as not to disrupt its relations with China.