Thailand sentences suspected Uighur asylum seekers

Breaking News March 15, 2014 00:00

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Thailand on Saturday sentenced dozens of asylum seekers thought to be from China's Uighur minority for illegal entry, an official said, despite a US appeal for their protection.

About 120 adults among the group were fined 4,000 baht ($124) each by a court in southern Thailand, according to police, who said they were waiting to identify the families before deciding their fate.

The men will be detained by immigration and the women and children will be taken to a shelter, Police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot said by telephone.

The group of roughly 200 people was discovered in a raid on a suspected people smuggling camp on Wednesday in the kingdom's deep south.

They presented themselves to police as Turkish, but US-based activists have identified them as Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim group from China's northwestern Xinjiang region.

Thailand, which says their nationality is still unconfirmed, has not said whether they might be forced to return to China, but the kingdom has a history of repatriating illegal immigrants.

The Turkish embassy and the UN refugee agency have been providing assistance.


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