BANGKOK - Thailand said on Friday that it had rejected a request from Beijing to deport all Uighur Muslims held in detention camps back to China, two days after the deportation of nearly 100 Uighurs sparked international criticism.
Beijing's request was denied based on the grounds that the Uighurs' nationalities had to be "verified" by Thai authorities first, Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy Thai government spokesman, told reporters.
"We did this according to international agreement and international law and keeping in mind human rights," said Weerachon.
"This decision was difficult to make. It is not like all of a sudden China asks for Uighurs and we just give them back. China asked for all Uighur Muslims in Thailand to be sent back but we said we could not do it," he said.
More than 170 Uighurs were identified as Turkish citizens and sent to Turkey from Thailand over the past month, said Weerachon, while nearly 100 were sent back to China. Fifty others still need to have their citizenship verified.
Thailand's decision to deport nearly 100 Uighurs from several immigration detention centers in Bangkok late on Wednesday was condemned by the United States and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who strongly urged China to ensure proper treatment of the Uighurs.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Uighurs have fled unrest in China's western Xinjiang region where hundreds of people have been killed, prompting a crackdown by Chinese authorities. They have traveled clandestinely through Southeast Asia to Turkey.