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Authorities confirm death of Uyghur asylum seeker

Activists call for more humane treatment of migrants in Immigration custody for years

February 22, 2023

About 200 illegal migrants believed to be Uyghurs who had travelled from northwestern China were arrested in Rattaphum district of Songkhla in March 2014. (Bangkok Post File Photo)

The Immigration Bureau has confirmed that a 49-year-old Uyghur asylum seeker who had been detained for years at the Bangkok Immigration Detention Centre had died.

A source familiar with the case told the Bangkok Post that following the man’s death, authorities contacted the office of the Chularatchamontree — the leader of Thailand’s Muslim community — to arrange for his immediate burial.

According to Islamic custom, a Muslim should be buried within 24 hours of passing away.

“We took good care of him after we found out that he was suffering from an illness,” the source said, without going into further detail about the illness suffered by the man, or the manner in which his death was discovered at the detention centre in Soi Suan Phlu.

The source went on to insist that Thailand has provided all Uyghur asylum seekers in the bureau’s custody with food, medicine and other basic necessities.

The case attracted public attention after it was first reported by BBC News, which ran a story about the death of Aziz Abdullah on Tuesday.

Following reports of his death, human rights groups are calling on the government to find a humane solution to the plight of around 50 Uyghur asylum seekers in Thailand, who have been detained for about nine years.

China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, where human rights groups believe more than a million people have been held in a vast network of detention camps in recent years.

Abdullah, who was a farmer in a remote part of southwestern Xinjiang, arrived in Thailand with his pregnant wife, his brother and seven children in late 2013. Activists said they were trying to reach Turkey via Malaysia, when they were intercepted in southern Thailand.

Activists familiar with the case said Abdullah had been seriously ill for more than three weeks, but Thai authorities refused to send him to hospital until he collapsed.

“He was coughing and vomiting blood, he could not eat,” said Polat Sayim, the director of the Refugees Centre of the World Uyghur Congress. “A doctor at the IDC examined him but said his condition was normal.”

He was finally taken to hospital after his collapse, but pronounced dead soon afterwards. The death certificate issued by the hospital specifies a lung infection as the cause of death, the BBC reported.


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