Thai PM Prayut blames repatriated Uighurs for attack on Istanbul consulate

Thai PM Prayut blames repatriated Uighurs for attack on Istanbul consulate
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday blamed the Uighur Muslims that Thailand returned to Turkey for the attack on the Thai honorary consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday night.

They are from the group that we sent back. And they united with the people who are already in Turkey," he said.

It appeared the Uighurs wanted to draw Thailand into a conflict with Turkey and China, although "we are not a party in the conflict", he said.

The Thai Embassy in Ankara posted on its Facebook page yesterday that a group of protesters had gathered outside and advised Thai nationals against visiting the mission.

Those requiring consular services have been advised to call (+90) 312 437 4318 or, in cases of emergency, to call (+90) 533 641 5698.

It also advised Thai tourists to take precautions after 200 Turks stormed the mission in protest at Thailand's deportation to China of 100 Uighur Muslims detained in the Kingdom since last year.

They are Turkic-speaking Uighurs from China's Xinjiang region seeking asylum from what they described as maltreatment by China. More than 170 other Uighurs were also sent to Turkey last week, said Werachon Sukondhapatipak, a deputy government spokesman.

The repatriation of the Uighurs to Turkey and China had been agreed upon by authorities from Thailand and the two countries, he said.

The Thai Embassy in Turkey also issued a warning on its website, advising Thai visitors to avoid public demonstrations or show Thai symbols, such as the national flag, while in Turkey for the sake of their safety.

"Thai tourists in Turkey should take extra precautions during this time. Tour guides should avoid using the Thai flag for their group tours. You should avoid places where there are demonstrations," the embassy said.

It also mentioned reports that Asian tourists were attacked in Turkey in the belief they were Chinese.

Prayut has instructed the Foreign Ministry to ensure the safety of Thais in Turkey, Werachon said. The PM expressed concern for Thais and officials at the Thai missions in Turkey and has instructed agencies to seek co-operation from the Turkish authorities.

More than 1,300 Thais live in Turkey. In Istanbul, the protesters broke down the doors to the consulate, pulled down the sign outside and damaged the furnishings inside. The Thai flag was pulled down as the building was pelted with stones. Files and documents were flung outside and littered the street.

Nine people were arrested after the action, which was organised by a group calling itself East Turkestan Education Association, the Dogan news agency reported. No Thais were hurt, the Thai Embassy reported.

The consular section was closed, it said on its website.

In Bangkok, police have increased security for the embassies of Turkey and China following the uprising in Istanbul.

Round-the-clock security is being provided for the two mission compounds, senior police sources said.

Turkey last week summoned the Chinese ambassador to convey its "deep concerns" over alleged restrictions on the Uighur community during Ramadan, which Beijing has denied.

Protests have taken place across Turkey, dealing a blow to relations between China and Turkey, which have noticeably improved over the last few years.

On Saturday, Turkish nationalists attacked a group of South Korean tourists in the heart of Istanbul's old city, thinking they were Chinese.

Meanwhile, Charamporn Jotika-sthira, president of Thai Airways International, said he was worried about problems mounting outside. However, the problems have not yet disrupted the airline's operation.

"Many problems exist that we have to be concerned about, but see no reflection at the moment," he said.

The airline is making crisis management plans, including international routing adjustments, in case the situation deteriorates, he said.

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