Thai embassy closed in Turkey after protest against deported Uighurs

 Demonstrators shout slogans as they attend a protest in front of the Thai Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on July 9, 2015.
Demonstrators shout slogans as they attend a protest in front of the Thai Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, on July 9, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand on Friday closed its embassy and consulate in Turkey after a protest against the kingdom's deportation of Uighur Muslims to China, as the US warned the minority could face "harsh treatment" on their return.

The temporary closure of Thailand's embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul comes after anti-Chinese demonstrators stormed the latter, damaging furnishings and pulling down the sign outside.

It was the latest protest in Turkey over the treatment of the Turkic-speaking, largely Muslim minority in China's northwestern Xinjiang region, where Uighurs say they face cultural and religious repression.

Scores are believed to have fled the restive area in recent years, sometimes travelling through Southeast Asia in hope of resettling in Turkey.

In Thailand the fate of some 400 Uighurs had been shrouded in uncertainty since March 2014 when they were detained for illegal entry while authorities verified their nationalities amid a tussle between Turkey and China over where they should be moved.

The junta-ruled kingdom revealed Thursday that around 100 Uighurs were deported to China on Wednesday, while an earlier group of 172 women and children were sent to Turkey in late June.

News of the sudden China deportations sparked international condemnation including from the United States, rights groups and the UN as well as the Istanbul protest.

In Bangkok, Thai government spokesman Werachon Sukhondhapatipak told reporters Friday that "the government has ordered the Thai embassy and consulate to close temporarily today".

"We will assess the situation on a daily basis," he said, adding all was currently under control with no Thai nationals affected, while citizens had been warned to remain on alert.

According to a Turkish news agency, an Asian tourist was attacked by pro-Uighur protesters in Ankara Thursday as they thought she was Chinese.

Responding to criticism over the China deportations, Werachon said that high-level Thai officials would travel to the country next week to follow-up on the returned group.