Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why Thailand Forced Uighurs to Return to China

In repatriating over 100 asylum-seeking Uighur Muslims, Thailand caved to pressure from Beijing.

Matt Schiavenza


Last week, Thailand forcibly repatriated over 100 Uighur people to China, where the ethnic minority group is likely to face punishment and retaliation. The decision elicited a backlash from the United States government, the United Nations, and international advocacy organizations who claimed that the Uighurs would be tortured—or worse—after their return. But Thailand insisted that it simply lacked the means to let them stay.
“Do you want us to keep them for ages until they have children for three generations?” asked Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s military-backed prime Minister.
Prayuth’s question, however, elided a key consideration: Thailand needs China’s support, and China wanted the Uighurs back.
China’s Persecuted Minority
A Muslim population native to Xinjiang, China’s vast westernmost region, the Uighurs have lived uneasily under Beijing rule since soon after the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949. Like the Tibetans, Uighurs claim to be victims of economic discrimination and religious and cultural repression. In recent years, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang have established laws that prohibit Uighur women from wearing veils on their faces, and have discouraged fasting during Ramadan.