Thailand to decide if Uighur family can go to Turkey or be sent back to China
by Anadolu Agency
BANGKOKMar 25, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Anadolu Agency
Mar 25, 2015 12:00 am
A Bangkok court will determine the fate of a Uighur family that was detained in Thailand last year as they fled Chinese persecution in their homeland in a judgement set to be handed down on March 27. Meanwhile, Turkey, as part of efforts to provide a safe haven for the Uighurs, have granted them Turkish passports
A Bangkok criminal court will decide on March 27 if a refugee Uighur family detained in Thailand last year can be released from custody, opening the door for a new life in Turkey or the risk of an uncertain future in China.
A judge announced to the South Bangkok Criminal court Tuesday that the Uighur family of 17 was granted Turkish passports by the Turkish embassy in the Thai capital while in detention last year.
An official at the embassy confirmed to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Tuesday that they are now Turkish citizens.
The husband and wife, their two infants – one born during custody – and the husband's two sisters and their children have been held at the immigration detention center in Bangkok since March last year when they were detained crossing into Thailand from Cambodia.
Ashan Teklimakan, 26, and Rukiye Teklimakan, 27, attended the hearing on Tuesday, which challenged the continued legality of their detention.
Family lawyer Worasit Piriyawiboon stated that by law Thailand could only detain immigrants for 48 hours and detention cannot be extended for more than seven days.
He added that their continued detention had no legal basis, particularly as no court order had been issued for their imprisonment.
Danthong Breen, an advisor to the Union for Civil Liberty, a local human rights nongovernmental organization, said the detention was contrary to article 12 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a party and which says that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."
Ahmed Idem Akay, the first counselor at the Turkish embassy, told AA on Tuesday that the family is Turkish.
That is why "we are following the case," he added. "They want to go to Turkey and we are ready to accept them. But [the release] is up to Thai authorities."
The couple confirmed to the judge that Turkey was their chosen destination.
"I want my son to study and have a good and healthy life," Mrs. Teklimakan said wearing an orange prison t-shirt and a headscarf.
During the course of Tuesday's hearing, the lawyer and the couple frequently said that they were given Turkish passports last year. Photocopies of the documents were also shown to the judge.
On several previous occasions, Turkish passports held by Uighurs have been shown to be fake and bought on the black market and the holders are eventually returned to China.
In September 2014, four Uighur were arrested in Indonesia for violating immigration law by using fake Turkish passports.
Many others from the Muslim ethnic group have been rounded up in Malaysia and charged with the same crime.
Since October 2013, around 300 Uighur have been rounded up in Thailand. Many of them claim to have Turkish nationality and are currently in detention in Bangkok or in Songkhla, in the country's south.
The Bangkok Post reported earlier this month that China has asked Thailand to provide the fingerprints and photos of all those detained so that they can check if "they are terrorists."
A police immigration officer giving testimony to the court on Tuesday said that Beijing has also asked Thailand to repatriate them.
Several representatives from the Chinese embassy also attended Tuesday's hearing.
The Uighur ethnic group, which constitutes around 45 percent of the population of Xinjiang – home to the Uighur – has accused China of carrying out repressive policies that restrain their religious, commercial and cultural activities.
A yearlong "anti-terrorism'' campaign – focusing on Xinjiang – was launched by China's central government on May 23 and will be in effect until June 2015.
Some Uighurs have been forced to seek shelter in other countries by the pressures they face in China. Turkey had previously expressed its stance on hosting Uighur asylum seekers when they officially requested Thailand to send 367 Uighur refugees to Turkey and not back to China, where they could possibly face death upon return.
Dozens of people were spotted at a human smuggling camp in southern Thailand in March who were deemed to be illegal immigrants by Thai officials. The group of people identified as Uighurs from China's restive northwestern province of Xinjiang, had fake Turkish passports and sought to escape the shadow of fear in China.
Turkey acted sensitively over the issue owing to the fear that the Uighurs could face death if sent back to China, and made a strong case that they should be transferred to Turkey.
Shaking off the oppression they had been coping with back home, some of the refugees were able to reach Turkey without getting caught in Thailand, many of whom were aided by Turkey's helping hand. Among the 500 who arrived in Turkey are reportedly also those who broke free from a human smuggling camp in Thailand.