Thailand probe origins of 200 illegal Muslims

Thailand probe origins of 200 illegal Muslims

More than 200 illegal Muslim migrants arrested in Songkhla earlier this month have their ethnic roots in Anatolia - the Asian region of Turkey - but it will take some more time to identify their exact nationality, Immigration Division 6 commander Thatchai Pitaneelaboot said yesterday.

These migrants, whose exact origin remains unclear, have claimed they are Turkish. However, it is also widely speculated they might be Uighurs from China's Xinjiang.

Arrested in Rattaphum district on March 12 were 218 illegal migrants, including children and women.

Arrested in Sadao district on March 20 were 77 illegal migrants, again including children and women.

"Clearly, they have come here as families. They have apparently planned to settle down somewhere else," Thatchai said.

He said the Turkish Embassy was being asked to help verify the nationality of the migrants. "If their nationality is proven, we will send them back to their homeland. But if they refuse, we will ask the United Nations High Commis-sioner for Refugees to take care of them," Thatchai said.

Thatchai said police have been cracking down on human-trafficking gangs. For example, a man from Satun province was arrested on March 10 on human-trafficking charges.

"Lately, we have also sought arrest warrants for two Songkhla men on the same charges," he said.

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