China urges Thailand to find Muslim Uighurs quickly after dramatic cell break

China urges Thailand to find Muslim Uighurs quickly after dramatic cell break
From Reuters - November 21, 2017

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it has urged Thailand to quickly bring to justice 20 ethnic Uighur Muslims from China who broke out of a Thai detention center through a hole in the wall, using blankets to climb to the ground.

Twenty-five Uighurs dug through their cell wall with broken tiles to make their dramatic escape from the center in Thailands southern Songkhla province, near the border with Malaysia, early on Monday.

Five were caught, but 20 fled and their whereabouts were unknown, according to Thai police, who said checkpoints had been set up along the border. Heavy rain had helped cover up the noise from their escape.

The escapees were part of the last remaining group of more than 200 Uighurs detained in Thailand in 2014.

Members of the group identified themselves as Turkish citizens and asked to be sent to Turkey but more than 100 were forcibly returned to China in July 2015, a move that sparked international condemnation, including from rights groups who feared they could face torture in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China would continue to strengthen cooperation with Thailand on the detainees escape and closely follow the situation.

China has already urged the relevant Thai department to quickly bring the relevant people to justice, he said at a regular news briefing.

Over the years, hundreds, possibly thousands, of Turkic-language speaking Uighurs have escaped unrest in Chinas western region of Xinjiang by traveling clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.


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