UHRP Welcomes UN Letter on Arbitrary Detention Cases in Thailand, Urges Immediate Resettlement

UN Documents 2024

For immediate release
April 24, 2024, 2:00 p.m. EDT
Contact: Omer Kanat, +1 (202) 790-1795, Peter Irwin, +1 (646) 906-7722

The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is calling on the Thai government to take steps to urgently resettle the group of Uyghurs who remain arbitrarily detained for over a decade, following a joint letter from UN experts expressing concern for their well-being.

“No one should be arbitrarily deprived of freedom for so long, it’s an absolute travesty,” said UHRP Executive Director Omer Kanat. “They must be resettled as soon as possible.”

The letter, signed by five experts and two Working Groups, calls on the Thai authorities to provide information on detention conditions as well as the legal basis for their “prolonged, incommunicado detention.” requests information on the physical and mental well-being of detainees and their access to medical care, legal counsel and their families.

The letter also expressed “serious concern” about the forcible return of 109 Uyghurs in July 2015 “without an assessment of their protection needs under international human rights and refugee laws.”

The letter urges the Royal Thai Government to investigate the five Uyghur deaths in Thai immigration detention. This letter comes a year following the death of Mattohti Mattursun (Muhammad Tursun), 40, an Uyghur refugee who had been in Thai detention for over nine years, who died of suspected liver failure. Earlier in 2023, Uyghur refugee Aziz Abdullah, 49, died in the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center (IDC), having spent almost nine years in immigration detention. Aziz Abdullah’s death on February 11 was reportedly due to pneumonia.

Referring to the 2022 assessment by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the letter adds that: “We further wish to express our serious concern for the physical and psychological safety of Uyghur migrants which we believe to be at risk of retaliation in direct connection with their values and beliefs, as already ascertained by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Uyghurs have been targeted on the basis of ethnic origin and religious affiliation, but detention and imprisonment have also been based, in many cases, on connections outside China. It is well-established that all Uyghurs and Turkic peoples forcibly returned to China would be at serious risk of persecution.

The principle of non-refoulement, binding to all states regardless of ratification of the Refugee Convention, firmly establishes that no one should be returned to a country where there is a real risk of persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or any other human rights violation.

Read more: 

WUC and UHRP Grieved by Death of Uyghur Refugee in Detention Center in Thailand, April 24, 2024

World Uyghur Congress: Investigate Death of Uyghur Refugee in Thai Immigration Detention Facility; Remaining Uyghur Detainees Must Be Released, February 23, 2023

52 Uyghur Groups Call for an End to Prolonged Detention of Uyghurs in Thailand, July 8, 2022

UHRP: World Refugee Day 2019: Thailand should free Uyghur refugees, June 20, 2019

Uyghur refugees deserve freedom, Bangkok Post, November 18, 2018

UHRP: World Refugee Day 2016: Resettle Uyghurs Refugees in Thailand to Safe Third Country, June 20, 2016 

Uyghur American Association urges UNHCR and the United States to work closely with Thai government on resettlement of Uyghur refugees, November 19, 2014