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Rights Groups Watch for Signs of Uighur Fate

Cambodian and international rights groups remain concerned over the fates of 20 Muslim Uighurs ejected from Cambodia in December.

A Chinese government spokesman indicated to the New York Times last week that the Uighurs would be or have been tried.

“China is a country ruled by law,” Ma Zhaoxu, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told the Times. “The judicial authorities deal with illegal criminal issues strictly according to law.”

It remains unclear what has happened to the group.

“Of course this is very sad,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told VOA Khmer from London. “Nobody has any idea what they have been charged with, what the evidence is, what crime they may have committed.”

Chinese trials are not fairly conducted, with defendants unable to effectively defend themselves or produce witnesses in a meaningful way, he said.

His concerns were echoed by Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who said any case against them “should be transparent and shown to the public.”

Twenty-two Uighurs fled to Cambodia late last year, seeking refuge with the UN after a violent crackdown against unrest in their home province of Xinjiang in July.

Cambodian authorities deported 20 of them to China, citing immigration violations, after two escaped. Cambodian officials have said the case of the Uighurs is now under Chinese sovereignty.

Still, with death sentences already handed out to some Uighurs from the July protests, Cambodia will retain responsibility for the fates of the deported, Adams said.

The country could also face consequences in relations with the US, he said, including in trade, aid and military relations.