20 Uighur escapees at large after jailbreak

20 Uighur escapees at large after jailbreak

Two holes are seen in the wall of the immigration police centre in Songkhla’s Sadao district where 20 Uighur illegal immigrants escaped early on Monday morning. (Photo by Assawin Pakkawan)

SONGKHLA: Twenty Uighur illegal migrants remained at large on Monday after breaking out of their concrete cell overnight at an immigration police unit in Sadao district, near the Thai-Malaysian borderline.

They are among 25 Uighur people arrested in 2015 and detained at the centre pending legal hearings after their claimed nationality was not confirmed. They do not want to be sent back to China, saying they fear for their safety.

Sources said the detainees managed to make two holes, each about 30 centimetres wide, through the outside wall of their cell, and then fled about 2am on Monday.

They used blankets as ropes to lower themselves about 3 metres to the ground below. They also used blankets to cover the concertina wire around their cell at the base of the wall, and then clambered over it. Five of the migrants were unable to make it out before police noticed the escape.

Police and soldiers, assisted by sniffer dogs, were trying to track down the fugitives.

Pol Capt Surasak Siripan, a deputy inspector of the Sadao immigration office, said local rubber tappers did not see any of the escaping migrants, because it was raining early Monday morning and they did not leave home to collect latex near the immigration centre.

Uighur are a Turkic ethnic group living primarily in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China who argue they are subject to widespread discrimination and have long been campaigning for an independent state.