World Bulletin/News Desk
Thailand's human rights commission is investigating the disappearance of more than 100 suspected Uyghur women and children from a government social shelter following their discovery in a southern Thai rubber plantation.
The Bangkok Post reported Thursday that as of November 6, 137 had fled the social shelter and only a few had been recaptured. The commission has said it is looking into their escape.
The women and children were part of a group discovered by Thai immigration police in Songkhla province in March and subsequently declared illegal immigrants. They claimed to be Turkish nationals, but it is suspected that they were actually Uighur Muslims who had fled the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Ahmet Akay, the deputy chief of mission from the Turkish Embassy in Bangkok, told the Anadolu Agency in Songkhla at the time that he had been sent to help with their identification.
"I have been instructed to establish their identity. My findings will be passed to my headquarters. They don't have documentations, as far as I know."
Police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, the chief of Thailand’s immigration bureau in the south, said that the group would not provide any personal information, such as their country of origin, their nationality or how they arrived in southern Thailand.
He said he suspected that they were part of a human trafficking network that work with local “agents.”
“Rohingya refugees have come through this region and lately more Bangladeshi have been arriving on our shores. This is the first of such a group, of this scale, who appeared to have originated from Central Asia,” he added.
Chinese and Turkish diplomats met with the group soon after, with Beijing asking that they be returned to China.
In the subsequent months, authorities separated the women and children from the men and started a nationality verification process. Of the women and children, 169 were placed in a government run social shelter in Songkhla, while the men were detained at several immigration police jails.
Of the 169, 137 subsequently escaped.
Human rights commissioner Niran Pitakwachara, who has travelled to Songkhla to investigate, said Thursday that he suspected that those who had left had attempted to cross the nearby border into Malaysia.
He said that officials in charge of the shelter will be summoned by the Human rights commission to explain how so many could escape.
Last Mod: 13 Kasım 2014, 11:00