Speaking to the media about the deportation of Uighur Muslims to China yesterday, Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha likened them to animals Thailand was best being rid of before they bred “three litters of offspring.”
A visibly angry Prayuth used coarse language while responding to questions over Thailand’s decision to send more than 100 Uighurs back to China against their will, a decision which drew sharp rebukes from the international community and led to a mob storming the Thai consulate in Istanbul last night.
“If we don’t do this, what else are we gonna do? Or do you want to feed them until they produce three litters of offspring?” he said, using the word kroak (ครอก) which means animal offspring.
Prayuth, who often goes off-script during testy exchanges with the media, was responding to repeated questions about how his government could be certain of the refugees’ safety after deporting them to China, which has sought their return since they were discovered in March, 2014, at a camp in the south of Thailand.
Many Uighurs, who are listed as a Turkic ethnic minority group in China, have fled from China’s western Xinjiang province where they complained of persecution and abuse at the hands of ethnic Han Chinese with the tacit acceptance of Chinese authorities.
The Thai government today announced it would send a delegation to China to check on their well-being.
The Uighurs were traveling through Southeast Asia with Turkey as their ultimate destination when they were detained in Thailand. They identified themselves as Turkish, and Thailand deferred the issue for months saying it was working to establish their identity.
Thai authorities yesterday said about half of the 200 Uighurs were determined to be Turkish and sent on to Turkey, while the rest were to be sent back to China.
The deportation sparked outrage from the UNHCR and human rights organizations, who condemned it as a grievous violation of international law. Last night an angry mob in Istanbul attacked the Thai consulate.
“Chinese authorities ensure the ethnic group’s safety. The group would undergo legal process. They will be freed if they are guiltless, but If they are found guilty, they will be punished,” Prayuth told the media. “Don’t think too much about it.”
Turks see themselves as sharing a common cultural and religious background with the Uighurs. Turkey already hosts a large Uighur community. China’s perceived cruel treatment of the Uighurs has drawn outrage in Turkey where nationalists have in recent days attacked Asian tourists.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!