Thailand Accused of Sending Uyghur and Other Refugees Back to China

A report highlights how asylum seekers from China and other countries have been repeatedly kidnapped or arrested and sent back to their persecutors.

by Massimo Introvigne

Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin meeting Xi Jinping in Beijing, October 19, 2023. Source: PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin meeting Xi Jinping in Beijing, October 19, 2023. Source: PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin meeting Xi Jinping in Beijing, October 19, 2023. Source: PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Visit Thailand” is a suggestion smiling throughout the world from thousands of posters praising the natural and cultural beauty of the Asian country. Having been there more than once, it is a slogan I would gladly endorse. However, it seems that visiting Thailand is not a good suggestion when it is addressed to refugees fleeing China and other non-democratic countries.

A report published on May 16 by Human Rights Watch suggests that in the last ten years the Thai government, intelligence services, and police have constantly cooperated with China (and others) to intimidate, harass, and ultimately arrest or kidnap and deport back to their home countries dissidents who will be jailed and tortured there (or worse). Human Rights Watch notes that Thailand has not ratified the Refugee Convention. However, it is a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which has a provision on non-refoulement, i.e., prohibits the states from deporting asylum seekers back to countries where they are at risk of being tortured.

For China, the story starts with democracy activists Jiang Yefei and Dong Guangping, who were deported to China in 2015 despite having UNHCR refugee status, and after the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok had informed the Thai government that their resettlement in Canada had been approved. Dong was particularly unfortunate in his choice of countries where he escaped to. Having served a sentence of three and a half years in China, he escaped to Vietnam in 2020, where he was arrested and once again deported back to China in 2022.

Gui Minhai, a Hong Kong-Swedish published and writer, was kidnapped in Thailand, also in 2015 and brought back to China. Also in 2015 there was the well-known case of 109 Uyghurs deported back to China despite the fact that they had been granted Turkish citizenship and were on their way to Turkey. Today, 43 Uyghurs remain in a detention center and can be deported at any time.

Uyghurs protesting Thailand’s decision to deport refugees back to China, Washington DC, July 13, 2015.Uyghurs protesting Thailand’s decision to deport refugees back to China, Washington DC, July 13, 2015.
Uyghurs protesting Thailand’s decision to deport refugees back to China, Washington DC, July 13, 2015.

In 2018, human rights activist Xian Li also arrived in Thailand as a refugee. She was harassed and compelled to meet with Chinese representatives. Only the strong intervention of American diplomats allowed her to fly to the United States, where she was granted asylum.

The report suspects that there are secret agreements between the Thai and Chinese governments for detaining and deporting back to China asylum seekers, or in some cases allowing Chinese agents to kidnap them. Similar secret agreements presumably exist with Cambodia and Laos, given the fate of several dissidents who escaped to Thailand from these countries, and perhaps with Vietnam, the report says.

It seems that keeping good relations with China and its allies is more important for Thailand than honoring its international human rights commitments and protect refugees from unlawful detention and torture.

link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *