Thai missions in Europe on alert amid imminent protests over Uighur return

Demonstrators shout slogans in front of the Thai Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, as they protest against Thailand's deportation of Uighurs to China.
PHOTO: Reuters

Thai expatriates in Europe have been warned to take extra precautions, as Thai embassies there brace for more protests over Thailand's deportation of Uighur asylum-seekers.

The Thai embassies in Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Estonia have issued warnings to Thais living there against commenting publicly about the issue following a recent attack.

Thailand's mission in Vienna reported that it had been informed by local police about an imminent protest against the repatriation of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs back to China. Thai expatriates were advised not to visit the embassy at this time.

Earlier, the Thai Embassy in Berlin also issued a similar warning after a planned protest outside the mission's building.

The series of warnings came after the Thai honorary consulate in Istanbul was attacked by some 200 protesters on Wednesday.

In Sweden, the Thai Embassy there said some 300 Turkish people staged a protest against Thailand yesterday at a park near the mission. The embassy warned that dissatisfaction against Thailand was spreading in many European countries.

Meanwhile, eight more Uighurs have been sent to Turkey - four of them women and four children, according to Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Werachon Sukondhapatipak.

Those were in addition to more than 170 Uighurs who were repatriated to Turkey late last month.

The eight were sent to Turkey on Friday night. They were among the 60 Uighur migrants remaining in Thailand, Werachon said yesterday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed the security agencies and the Interior Ministry to explain to Muslims in Thailand about the repatriation of the Uighur Muslims, Deputy Government Spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday. The prime minister does not want this matter to be linked to religion, he added.

Yesterday, the European Union condemned Thailand's deportation of the Uighurs to China, calling it a breach of the principle of non-refoulement, which is a core tenet of international humanitarian law.

"Thailand has obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The remaining people of Turkic origin should be allowed to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice that is willing to receive them," the EU said in a statement. The EU move came after earlier protests by the United States and Turkey.

Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also criticised Thailand over the matter.

"We are gravely concerned by the deportation to China of 109 people understood to be ethnic Uighurs - including some 20 women - by the Thai authorities," the agency's spokesman Rupert Colville said.

"We strongly urge the Thai authorities to ensure the protection of the 60 individuals who remain in detention and ensure that no further deportations are made to countries where there are substantial grounds to believe that they would face an imminent risk of grave human rights violations."