Cambodia received nearly a billion dollars from Beijing the day after it deported Uighur asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said, claiming China had pressured the country to violate its international agreements.
Twenty Muslim Uighurs were flown out of Cambodia on Saturday, a day before the visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who praised the government for its decision and offered a $1.2 billion aid package.
“When a member of the Security Council so flagrantly pressures another country to violate its international obligations, it’s a matter of concern not just for a handful of asylum seekers, but for the world,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Tuesday.
The destination of the 20 Uighurs, who had applied for asylum with UNHCR, is not known. Two remain at large in Cambodia and are being sought by authorities.
“The Chinese government must be pressed as hard as possible to announce the location of the returnees, to allow access to members of the international diplomatic community, and to release them unless it produces credible evidence to show that each one committed acts that could be described as criminal in light of international standards,” Adams said.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak dismissed the Human Rights Watch statement.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told the Cambodia Daily Wednesday UNHCR had a role in the deportation. The agency “kept the Uighurs for nearly one month and did not send them to another country,” the newspaper quoted him saying. “Two or three days would have been enough time.”
However, Adams put the responsibility with Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Hun Sen’s action makes a mockery of Cambodia’s commitment to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to protect people who have a justified fear of persecution or torture on return,” Adams said.