Report: Thailand puts Muslim Uighur under surveilance
Order by Thai deputy-police chief comes as media speculate on connection between bombing and 109 Uighur Thailand sent to China in July

The Thai police officer leading the investigation into the Aug. 17 bombing in Bangkok, in which 20 people died, has given specific orders for the Kingdom's 3,000-strong Uighur community to be kept under close observation, local media reported Thursday.

Thai deputy-police chief General Chaktip Chaijinda's order comes as local and international media continue to speculate on a connection between the bombing at the shrine and the suspected mistreatment of 109 ethnic Uighur that Thailand sent to China in July.

The Bangkok Post - quoting an unnamed police source at the crime suppression division - said that Chaijinda, who will become police chief Oct. 1, said that officers should not differentiate between those with "Chinese or Turkish passports” as well as keeping a close eye on Uighur residential areas.

Chaijinda has also "demanded reports [on Uighur living in Thailand] as soon as possible” from his team, added the Post.

One of three suspects being questioned by Thai police in their investigation appears to hold a Chinese passport, with the Chinese region of Xinjiang - populated mostly by ethnic Uighur - marked as the birthplace.

Another held a fake Turkish passport, while Thai police have issued an arrest warrant for another man they say holds a genuine Turkish passport.

On Thursday, the Turkish embassy in Thailand uploaded a statement from Ambassador Osman Bulent to its website saying it had asked for clarification from the Thai ministry of foreign affairs on the issue and was still "waiting for an official reply."

"There are also certain press reports with regard to arrest warrants having been issued for certain Turkish nationals. Up to now this Embassy has not received any official notification from the Thai authorities concerning the arrest warrants," it added.

Diplomatic protocol normally dictates that when arrest warrants are issued by one country concerning another’s citizens, the second country is immediately alerted, however in this instance this appears not to have been the case.

So far, police have arrested two people and are questioning one other.

The man with a fake Turkish passport baring his image - and found in possession of around 200 more - was held after a weekend raid on a Bangkok suburb, another was arrested Tuesday near the Cambodian border while attempting to cross into the neighboring country, and a further man is being questioned after being picked up Thursday, according to Thai authorities.

On Wednesday, Chaijinda said that the 26-year-old arrested Tuesday had admitted during interrogation that he was in the vicinity of the bomb scene around the time of the attack, while police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri has said that the suspect's fingerprints match those on a container used for holding bomb ingredients seized during a weekend raid.

The suspect has denied, however, placing the bomb himself.

According to a report published by Thai language Isra News Agency on Thursday, the initial arrestee was well-known by NGOs dealing with Uighur issues in Thailand as "he was working to help Uighur who had entered Thailand illegally.”

Thai media have reported that there are around 3,000 Uighur residing in Thailand, either with Chinese or Turkish citizenship. They are mostly based in the suburbs of Bangkok, but some also live in the south, close to the Malaysian border.

Media have speculated on a connection between the bombing at the shrine -- popular with tourists, especially Chinese -- and the suspected mistreatment of the 109 ethnic Uighur that Thailand sent to China.

Uighur fleeing oppression by Chinese authorities usually use a route through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, trying to reach Malaysia where they attempt to board flights for Turkey, which welcomes Uighur as its own as they are among a number of Turkic tribes that inhabit a region many Turks call East Turkestan and consider to be part of Central Asia, not China.

Many, however, are detained by Thai police and immigration officials -- some of whom demand bribes to allow them to continue on their way.

The 85 men and 24 women sent to China were from a group of around 350 who were being held in Thai immigration centers. Around 180 others had earlier been sent to Turkey.

As a chorus of protests by international organizations and foreign governments against Thailand’s decision to send the second group to Beijing grew, a further group of eight women and children were also sent to Turkey.

Around 50 other Uighur, accused of illegal entry into Thai territory, are still being detained at immigration centers in Songkhla province in southern Thailand.

Police spokesman Gen. Prawut Thavornsiri has said that the bombing was not related to "international terrorism", but rather to "people smuggling".

"The gang [to which the suspect belongs] is unsatisfied with police arresting illegal entrants," he told a Thai TV channel this week.

"The suspect had more than 200 fake passports when he was arrested. It is a network that fakes passports and sends the illegal migrants towards third countries."

On Thursday, Thavornsiri underlined Thailand's stance when asked if the case was linked to Uighur.

"We have agreed already that I won't mention the name of a country, the name of a group or their religion. Please allow me to say that it is a network, and let's wait and see which group it is."

Worasit Piriyawiboon, a Thai lawyer who represented detained Uighur challenging the legality of their detention by immigration authorities in March, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that he had also been interrogated this week by Thai police.

"Police officers wanted to know about possible connections between Uighur and the bombing,” he told Anadolu Agency over the phone without giving more details.

In August, Philip Robertson, the Asia deputy-director for Human Rights Watch -- while stressing that any links between the blast, in which 20 people died, and the Uighur issue were purely hypothetical -- underlined that the central issue is that the 109 Uighur who were detained in Thai detention centers until July "should have never been sent to China."

That was, however, one week ago.

"We know that they face torture and unlawful detention [in China]... Thailand went ahead despite advice from many people that they should not do it."

He underlined that Thailand would have to deal with any consequences of that.

Last Modified: 2015-09-04 07:55:48
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