BANGKOK -- The Thai government on Wednesday dispatched an investigative team to China to follow up on how a group of ethnic Uighur refugees deported back to China are being treated.
Thailand has faced a barrage of criticism recently after it deported over 100 Turkic-speaking Muslims fleeing persecution in China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The Thai government is apparently trying to deflect the criticism by sending the team headed by Anusit Kunakrn, secretary-general of the National Security Council. It says that Thailand will confirm whether China has kept its promise on the deportees, but what the three-day mission can achieve remains unclear.
The 109 people deported last Wednesday were among a group of Uighurs under the custody of the Thai government since last year on stowaway charges.
The deportation ignited a chorus of criticism from international bodies and human rights organizations. The U.S. State Department has expressed concern, saying the deportees "could face harsh treatment and a lack of due process."
Many within Thailand were also critical. The Bangkok Post daily newspaper said, "Thailand once again has bent to the threats of China."
The country's interim prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has commented that "China said it would provide safety to them."
Of the 60 Uighurs that remained in Thailand, eight were sent to Turkey last Saturday on the grounds that their Turkish nationality had been confirmed.
Both China and Turkey want the remaining 52. The prime minister has only said that Thailand needs to confirm their nationality and whether they have committed a crime in China.