Bangkok: Uyghur refugee imprisoned in centre for nine years dead
Mettohti Matturson, 40, died as a result of poor conditions during in detention. He had arrived in Thailand in 2014 and was arrested with 450 other fugitives from Xinjiang. Five similar cases since 2018. The executive director of the World Uyghur Congress: 'How many more deaths will there be before the Thai authorities act humanely?'
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - Amongst Uyghur refugees who fled Chinese persecution in Xinjiang Autonomous Province and are being detained in Thailand, the second death in custody in two months was recorded: Mettohti Matturson, 40, died a week ago from a suspected liver disease and poor conditions in detention after being held in the Suan Phlu Immigration Custody Centre in the capital Bangkok for nine years.
Thus, five deaths have been recorded in the centre since 2018 and this despite calls from many quarters for the Thai authorities to improve living conditions and security and above all to guarantee more medical care for the detainees.
Sources from the World Uyghur Congress (a historical diaspora organisation of this Turkic and Muslim population) and the Uyghur Human Rights Project (a group committed to protecting the identity and rights of Uyghurs), reported that Mettohti Matturson's condition had recently worsened, with severe abdominal pain and vomiting. He had also developed severe jaundice. The transport to hospital was useless, where he died.
His case was unfortunately not an isolated one. Mettohti had been placed in custody after his entry into Thailand on 13 March 2014. A fate that befell 450 people of the same ethnicity, including women and children, fleeing China the same year.
By July 2015, 170 of them had boarded a flight to Turkey, which had welcomed them because of their closeness of faith, language and culture, while 109 others had been deported to China despite pressure from many organisations and diplomats on the Bangkok authorities to back down.
The current government, heir to the military coup of May 2014, has favoured closer relations with Beijing, both to encourage trade and military agreements and investment in infrastructure, and to have an international backing that is less critical of it in terms of human rights and democratic rules. The Uyghurs, like other refugee groups, are victims of these political and strategic opportunities.
"How many more deaths will there be before the Thai authorities act humanely and release these innocent people who are just seeking safe harbour?" asked the executive director of the World Uyghur Congress, Omer Kanat, on the news of Mettohti's death. "Uyghurs around the world are distressed at the thought that these refugees have been in a miserable condition for nine years without the world lifting a finger to save them."