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IFC Statement on the Uyghur Hunger Strike at Thai Immigration Detention Facility

Initiatives for China has serious concerns for the well being of the imprisoned Uyghur refugees who have been on a hunger strike for six days in a Thai immigration detention facility. Initiatives for China is calling for international attention to the grave issue of Uyghur refugees in Thailand. The hunger strike started on May 31, 2016 with the initial 15 Uyghur refugees growing to 31 as of today.

The Uyghurs, who are involved in this hunger strike, have been held at the detention facility for over two years. For the past two years, 173 of the refugees were able to board a chartered flight to Turkey, while 109 were forcibly returned to the hands of the Chinese Government. There are about 70 Uyghur refugees being held in several detention facilities across Bangkok today. According to World Uyghur Congress, the Uyghurs were likely initially arrested back in March 2014. Some of them were discovered in a human smuggling camp in Southern Thailand, while others were arrested attempting to cross the Thailand-Malaysia border around the same time.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “indefinite detention is arbitrary and maximum limits on detention should be established in law.” The commissioner also states that “asylum-seekers should not be held in detention for any longer than necessary; and where the justification is no longer valid, the asylum-seeker should be released immediately.” However, The Thai Government continues to provide no justification for the continued detention of the group for well over two years.

Initiatives for China calls the Thai Government to immediately address the situation for the well-beings of the Uyghur refugees. IFC urges the Thai Government to help the remaining Uyghur refugees to reach a safe and free destination. We also ask the Thai government not to return any more Uyghur refugees back to the Chinese Government’s hand.

Initiatives for China also calls the international community and our partner NGOs to raise the awareness on this issue.

Below is a translation of the Uyghur Refugees’ appeal:

Urgent Appeal: We are Uyghur refugees from East Turkestan detained by Thai authorities for more than two years upon our difficult escape from Chinese repression.
Instead of protecting us from the imminent threat of mistreatment, torture and imprisonment upon our return, Thailand has already forcibly extradited more than 140 of us to China.
International institutions for protecting refugees, including the UNHCR, haven’t seriously cared about the tragic situation of Uyghur refugees-not only of those who have already been repatriated, but also of those who are still suffering in inhuman conditions in Thai detention centers.
The Thai authorities do not treat us as refugees or even humans, nor are they willing to surrender us to Turkey who has offered its help. Rather, they forcibly separated and relocated families. We are in a desperate situation. We asked nothing more than to live in freedom without fear of repression because of our ethnicity and religion, we don’t want to be sent back to China where we will face torture and imprisonment.
We have no choice but to go on a hunger strike as we don’t want to stay more years in detention innocently and without knowing about what will come upon us. We believe that it is better to die here rather to be repatriated, tortured and imprisoned in China as we know what they did to our fellow countrymen extradited by Thailand previously.
We urgently appeal to the international community not to stay silent on Thailand’s unfair treatment of Uyghur refugees, and we urge Thai authorities to help protect us against China’s repression in accordance with international law.

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