ISTANBUL – Turkish protesters have attacked the Thai consulate in Istanbul following the deportation from Thailand of about 100 Uighurs to China.
Thai officials said that protesters stormed the compound late on Wednesday night. No injuries were reported.
Rights groups have criticised such deportations, saying Uighurs face persecution in China.
Turkey has seen growing anger at Chinese discrimination against Uighurs, who are ethnically Turkic Muslims.
But China has said it respects the freedom of Muslim beliefs.
The Royal Thai Embassy in Turkey said on Facebook (in Thai) that a group of protesters had broken into the Istanbul consulate around midnight on Wednesday, damaging the office door and destroying property inside.
It advised Thais in Turkey to not to show the national symbol or flag in public, to avoid protest venues and to “refrain from mentioning or arguing with the Turkish” on the issue of Uighurs.
Turkish media reported that the consulate’s windows had been smashed by protesters wielding sticks, following reports the Uighurs had been deported.
On Thursday, the Thai government confirmed that about 100 Uighurs had been sent back to China the day before.
Government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said Thailand had verified that the Uighurs were Chinese nationals before sending them back.
“We have not done anything to favour anyone or violated any principle. We have followed proper procedures,” he was quoted as saying in The Bangkok Post.
Human Rights Watch’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said the Uighurs sent to China “will likely face torture”. Rights groups have criticised Cambodia and Thailand for deporting Uighurs to China, saying they face persecution, abuse and human rights violations.
Turkey has seen increased protests and isolated attacks on tourists thought to be Chinese over China’s treatment of Uighurs.
The latest spike of anti-Chinese sentiment began over allegations that Uighurs in China had been banned from fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But China has denied such reports.
Many of China’s Uighurs are based in the far western province of Xinjiang which has seen increased tensions and conflict between Uighurs and authorities in recent years.
Who are the Uighurs?
- Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
- They make up about 45% of the Xinjiang region’s population; 40% are Han Chinese
- China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
- Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese and Uighurs fear erosion of their culture
- Xinjiang is officially designated an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south