Uighurs not terror suspects but using Malaysia as transit point: DPM Zahid

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

HUTAN MELINTANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The two alleged Uighur terror suspects believed to have left Thailand for Malaysia are actually economic refugees, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid, who is also the Home Minister, said Malaysia received information from Interpol, as well as the Homeland Security of China, about the intelligence memo issued by the Phuket Immigration Office of Thailand.

"They (the two Uighurs) are using Thailand and Malaysia as a transit point to get to a third country and to brand them as terrorists, I think it's unfair.

"Some of their people may have been involved in terrorism, militancy and radicalism but it doesn't mean that all of them are," he told reporters after closing the Kembara Kebajikan 1Malaysia programme on Sunday (April 10).

He was responding to a Bernama report that two Turks of Uighur descent, suspected of plotting terrorist attacks in Thailand, had left for Malaysia.

Thai officials were quoted as saying that they had been informed of the men's recent departure by Phuket Immigration Office.

The names of the two Uighurs were believed to be the same as those in a leaked intelligence memo, which had claimed that two Uighurs and two Russians of Chechen descent were plotting terror attacks in Thailand.

Uighurs, said Mr Ahmad Zahid, were known to be legal immigrants carrying passports in search of a third country to go to.

"We've been working very closely with the Chinese government in sending them back to China," he said.

Asked if this meant that news of the Uighurs entering Malaysia was not a cause for concern, Mr Zahid said the Government would continue to monitor the situation based on the information given by the Interpol as well as the Asean Chiefs of Police.

He also advised Malaysians planning to celebrate the four-day Songkran Festival in Thailand starting on Monday to exercise caution.