Uyghur Detainees Stage Hunger Strike in Thailand

BenarNews Staff
2016.06.02
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160602-TH-uyghur-hunger-620.jpg This photo shows a portion of a hand-written appeal sent by a group of Uyghurs held in a Thai immigration detention center, May 31, 2016.
RFA

Nineteen Uyghurs on Thursday were on a hunger strike at a detention center in Thailand, protesting against their possible deportation to China, according to a detainee.

On Tuesday a group claiming to represent more than 70 Uyghurs who are being held at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok and other sites in Thailand said they had started a hunger strike because they would rather die there than be sent back to China.

“If we were returned back to China, we will face physical and emotional torture, and be killed or sentenced to stay in prison for life,” a group calling itself For Freedom told Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews, in a hand-written note received (pictured) on May 31.

“Therefore, we announced a hunger strike and thought it would be better to die from a hunger strike while in here. We will continue our hunger strike until we are freed or relocated to a third country or till we die here.”

On Thursday, 19 Uyghurs were refusing to take food and water at the Bangkok center, a detainee told RFA. Two members of a group of about 30 being held at the detention facility were taken away to solitary confinement because they spoke English and were suspected of contacting the media, while others were taken to "punishment cells" after falling ill during the strike, the source said.

The hand-written note criticized the Thai government and officials at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok, saying that they treated detainees as something less than human.

“Thailand did not give us to Turkey, and they did not treat us Uyghurs in detention as humans either. They inflicted profound suffering upon us,” For Freedom wrote. “They separated us from our wives and children, parents, and siblings. Other countries did not help us at all.”

On Thursday Thai government and prison officials could not be reached for comment.

One of the detainees, who asked to remain anonymous, told RFA that he and other Uyghurs were seeking a better life.

“We escaped from China’s layer upon layers of oppression to free our wives and children detained in the democratic country of Thailand. If Thailand is a democratic country, they should let us go to countries like Turkey,” the detainee said.

Last year, Thailand forcibly sent more than 100 Uyghurs back to China, where their fate is uncertain.

Uyghurs have fled unrest in northwestern China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where hundreds of people have been killed in spates of violence in recent years.

Ties to Turkey are religious, ethnic

Uyghur ties with Turkey are religious and ethnic. About 20 million Muslims live in China and many Uyghurs have already immigrated to Turkey.

The Uyghurs in Thai custody are hoping that their hunger strike will get the attention of other countries that might be willing to take them in. Uyghur advocacy groups have criticized the international community for turning a blind eye to their plight.

Rukiye Turdush, managing director of the Diplomatic and Human Rights Office of Eastern Turkestan Government in Exile based in Canada, told RFA that he was concerned for the Uyghurs’ safety and doubted they would be allowed to go free anytime soon.

“We call on Thai police first to treat the Uyghur detainees with human dignity and release them to freedom or let them go to other free countries,” he said, adding that refugee organizations in Canada told him there was no room for new refugees.

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