Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said he is confident that hundreds of Chinese Uighur refugees will be safe if they are repatriated to China.
More than 200 suspected Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority in China, have been detained in Thailand since early this year after they were rescued in the mountains of Songkhla.
The government says it has spent months working to identify their nationalities. The refugees have asserted they are Turkish.
Gen Prawit said if the group is identified as Chinese, the issue would be a Chinese internal affair.
“About their safety, I do not believe a superpower like China will treat them with violence when these people return home,” he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said identification is being carried out, but he pledged that Thailand will respect human rights.
“Several processes, including their nationality identification are still going on, and the decision has not yet been made whether to send them to China,” Mr Sek said.
The government’s comments came after the Chinese consul in Songkhla, Qin Jian, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the detained refugees should be repatriated if they are identified as Chinese.
Conflicts between Uighurs and the majority Han in China have left around 400 people dead over the past 20 months.