Thailand's military government has deported more than 100 ethnic Uighurs to China. Human rights groups and the United Nations criticize the Thai government for the act.
The overnight deportation of the ethnic Uighurs to China occurred at a military air force base. The Uighurs were earlier held in detention centers across Thailand. The group was mostly men but included some women and children.
Reports Thursday said Thai authorities used force to control the men who resisted as they were put on a plane to China. Reports also said women were heard asking Thai officials not to return them to China, where many say they face persecution – severe and unfair treatment.
Weerachon Sukondhapatipak is the Thai Deputy Government spokesman. He says the decision to deport the group came following long negotiations with international officials.
He also said the Uighurs in the group had lived in China for quite some time, and were identified as having Chinese citizenship.
The group was part of about 370 ethnic Uighurs held in Thai detention centers since their arrival early last year. The World Uighur Congress in Germany says talks over what would happen to the refugees included officials from Germany, the European Union, the United States, Turkey and China.
More Uighurs are leaving China for Southeast Asia because of persecution by the Chinese government. The Uighurs make up about 45 percent of the population in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Chinese authorities have accused Uighurs of separatist acts of violence to establish an independent state.
International organizations and rights groups condemn Thailand's decision to deport the Uighurs.
Sophie Richardson is the China director of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. She says Thailand had broken international human rights law.
"If in fact it is true the Thai government has sent these people back it has committed a grave violation of international human rights law. You do not send people back to a place where they have well-founded fear of persecution," she said.
Angry protesters attacked the honorary Thai consulate general in Istanbul, Turkey. Some broke windows and pulled down the Thai flag. However, no injuries were reported.