China has maintained communications with the Thai government over the plight of the remaining 52 Uighur Muslims in Thailand, bidding to have them repatriated, a Chinese official said yesterday.
"Officials from both sides are still working on the issue of what to do with them in accordance with laws and obligations," the official at the Chinese Embassy told The Nation.
More than 300 members of the Turkic ethnic group have been in Thailand since March of last year. The government sent 172 of them to Turkey in June and 109 to China last Thursday. Eight more were shipped to Turkey, it was reported on Sunday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government would hold the remaining 52 Uighurs for a while.
"We did our best. The government did not do such things under the pressure of any country," he said.
Repatriation of the 109 Uighurs to China last week sparked indignation from the international community. The United States and the United Nations have urged the government not to send any more of them to China.
The government has claimed that China guaranteed their safety and allowed representatives from the National Security Council (NSC) and international organisations to observe China's treatment of the returned Uighurs.
Prayut said Anusit Kunakorn, secretary-general of the NSC, would visit China tomorrow to see whether China dealt with the Uighurs as promised.
A group of Muslim students yesterday submitted a letter to the Chinese Embassy asking Beijing to take care of the returned Uighurs with mercy and allow international organisations to send their representatives to visit them in China.
The UN High Commission for Human Rights wanted Thailand to reconsider the matter. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment expressed concern to the Thai authorities that the deportation of this group to China would amount to refoulement and put them at risk of being tortured or subjected to other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, according to a UN statement.
China wanted custody of the Uighur groups as it claimed some of them were illegal migrants, had committed crimes or would join terrorist groups.
Of the 109 people returned to China last week, 13 had fled China after being implicated in terrorist activities, and two had escaped detention, a Chinese Public Security Ministry statement has said.
Prayut did not express an opinion whether the returned Uighurs were terrorists but said Chinese authorities had suspicions about them, so Thailand had to send them out as requested.He said his government had sent the Uighurs to China on the stake of national interest and human rights.
"We have to rely on laws and international relations, not pressure from any country," he told reporters after the NSC meeting.