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Songkhla

Ministry seeks help with care of 'Turkish' refugees

The Foreign Ministry is seeking help from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the care and identification of some 200 refugees of so-called Turkish origin found in Songkhla.

Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he had assigned the ministry's permanent secretary Srihasak Phuangketkeow to contact IOM and UNHCR to help Thailand take care of and identify the nationality of the refugees who were found last Wednesday in a secret camp in Songkhla's Rattaphum district.

As the refugees are believed to be either Turkish or of Uighur ethnicity from western China, Surapong said officials from China and Turkey had been dispatched to check on them. Asked if Thailand would have the refugees deported despite the United Nations asking them not to, Surapong said the authorities had to wait for nationality identification first, which should be done soon. He affirmed that the refugees would be treated along international humanitarian and justice principles.

In Songkhla, Chinese charge d'affaires Zhang Yiming and other senior diplomats were briefed about the refugees yesterday by Pol Maj-General Chawalit Sawaengphuet, who is deputy commissioner of Provincial Police Region 9, officials from the Immigration Bureau's Division 6 and staff from Songkhla Social Development and Human Security Office.

Zhang told reporters that he had gone to Songkhla to see what was happening for himself because news reports were still confusing. Since it was reported that the refugees might be Uighur, the Chinese Embassy had sent officials to make inquiries with the Provincial Police Region 9, he said. However, since the nationality of the refugees has yet to be ascertained, he is urging the authorities to take good care of them and not send them to a third country.




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