US slams Thailand’s ‘forced deportation’ of ethnic Uighurs to China
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US slams Thailand’s ‘forced deportation’ of ethnic Uighurs to China

The United States has weighed in on Thailand’s “forced deportation” of more than 100 ethnic Uighurs.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the action “runs counter to Thailand’s international obligations” and the U.S. is deeply concerned about the protection of asylum-seekers there. He added that the Uighurs could face harsh treatment in China.

Thailand’s decision to send the minority Muslims back to China has also drawn harsh criticism from the U.N. refugee agency, which called it a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Kirby is urging Thailand to allow remaining Uighurs to depart to a country of their choice, and he’s calling on China to give due process to those deported.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha publicly defended the decision Thursday, even as the Thai consulate in Istanbul came under attack from angry protesters there.

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Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. Pic: AP.

“If we send them back (to China) and there is a problem that is not our fault,” Prayuth said.

He added that his first priority was to ensure the safety of the staff at the Istanbul consulate.

“I ask that we look after the safety of the embassy staff first,” Prayuth told reporters. “But if the situation gets worse then we might temporarily have to close the embassy in Turkey.”

Thailand is a long-standing U.S. ally, but relations have been strained since a military coup last year.

(READ MORE: Analysis: US nominates former NKorea envoy as new ambassador to Thailand)

Additional reporting from Associated Press