More than a year has passed since 20 Muslim Uighurs were ejected from Cambodia and sent back to China as they sought refuge in Phnom Penh.
The fate of the asylum seekers remains unknown. But a government spokesman on Tuesday dismissed a call by Human Rights Watch for the Chinese government to account for the group as an attack on Cambodia.
The spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, said the Dec. 19, 2009, forced deportation was done under the law and that Human Rights Watch “should open their eyes to see the good will of the Cambodian government.”
The Uighurs had fled unrest in their home province of Xinjiang, but the Chinese government said they were wanted as criminals.
“The group, which had expressed fear of persecution and torture if sent back to china, had been issued ‘Persons of Concern’ letters” by UNHCR, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday. This “should have prevented their forced return to possible persecution, known as refoulment.”
Human Rights Watch called the deportation “a clear violation of Cambodia's obligations as a state party to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.”
“Both China and Cambodia should be held accountable for their flagrant disregard of their obligations under international law,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.