US urges Thailand to protect Uighur asylum seekers
March 15, 2014 00:00
WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday urged Thailand to protect about 200 asylum seekers from China's Uighur minority, with activists fearing that Beijing will pressure the kingdom to deport them.
Thai police said Thursday that they discovered the families in a raid in the kingdom's deep south. The asylum seekers, who appeared to be preparing to head elsewhere, presented themselves as Turkish rather than Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim group from China's northwestern Xinjiang region.
"We are urging the Thai government to provide full protection to the victims (and) to ensure that their humanitarian needs are met," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.
The latest annual US human rights report said that China carries out "severe official repression" of Uighurs in Xinjiang, including over their freedom of speech and religion.