A Uyghur family that entered Thailand illegally will stay behind bars until authorities figure out their nationalities in order to determine where to deport them, a court in Bangkok ruled Friday.
A two-judge panel at the South Bangkok Criminal Court ruled that the Immigration Bureau had the authority to prolong their detention, pending deportation, according to the family’s lawyer.
“I didn’t agree with the verdict and I’ve prepared to appeal the case,” lawyer Worasit Piriyawiboon told reporters.
Both the Chinese and Turkish governments claim that the Teklimakan family – which numbers 17 people, including two children who were born to mothers in Thai custody – are their citizens.
The diplomatic tug-of-war could have implications for a total of 355 Uyghurs who are in Thai custody, Reuters reported.
“I respect the judgment based on the laws, but the context of human dignity and pride must be addressed. Two children shouldn’t have been confined in the detention center,” said Chilida Tajaroensuk, director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation, a human rights group.
Thai police arrested the Uyghur family in March 2014, on suspicion that the Teklimakans had crossed into the country via the Cambodian border without proper papers.
Uyghurs belong to a Muslim minority within China, who live mostly in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region. Uyghurs speak a Turkic language and also are spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. Many Uyghurs live in Turkey.
Since Thailand detained the Teklimakan family, Ankara, through its embassy in Bangkok, has given them Turkish passports.
Representatives from the Chinese and Turkish embassies were at Friday’s hearing.
On Tuesday, two members of the Uyghur family – Ashan Teklimakan, 22, and Rukiye Teklimakan, 21 – were brought before the court, but they were not present when the ruling was read out Friday.
Police Lt. Col. Jitti Samthong, deputy superintendent of the Immigration Bureau’s Division 3, which is overseeing their detention, on Tuesday testified that his office had yet to determine which country should be the destination of the Uyghurs’ pending deportation, because the question of their nationalities still had not been resolved.
“They are our citizens and they want to go to Turkey. It is up to the Thai government to decide. They are already accepted (by Turkey),” A. Idem Akay, first counsellor at the Turkish embassy, said Tuesday.