Uighur migrants held in Thailand for 11 months take case to court

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai court will decide this month whether to release 17 Uighurs from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, including 13 children, who have been detained for the past 11 months in Bangkok, a lawyer for the group said on Tuesday. Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, prompting a crackdown by Chinese authorities. Small numbers of Uighurs, a Muslim people from Xinjiang who speak a Turkic language, have been trickling out of China to Southeast Asia with some ending up in Thailand. "The court will hold an urgent hearing on March 24 and decide whether to release the group of 17, including a four-month-old baby, who are all from the same family," Worasit Piriyawiboon, a lawyer for the group, said. "They would be released immediately if the court finds they have been detained illegally." Under Thai law, court approval must be sought for detention periods over seven days. The family, who use the surname Teklimakan, entered Thailand in March 2014 and were caught in the town of Aranyaprathet, close to Thailand's border with Cambodia. They were charged with illegal entry and the adults fined 20,000 baht ($618), said Worasit. The family are currently being held at Bangkok's Suan Plu Immigration Detention Center. They have been issued Turkish passports, he said. The Embassy of Turkey in Bangkok could not be reached for comment. China lashed out at Turkey in November for offering to shelter roughly 200 Uighurs from Xinjiang who were rescued from a human-smuggling camp in Thailand. Turkey is home to thousands of Uighurs who have fled Xinjiang since the Chinese Communists took over the region in 1949. ($1 = 32.3400 baht) (Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)