Originally Published by Phnom Penh Post, 24 December 2009
NATIONAL police said Wednesday that they had begun the hunt for two Uighur asylum seekers who avoided the deportation of 20 of their countrymen on Saturday, and a top UN official added his voice to those criticising the Cambodian government over the deportation.
Sok Phal, deputy national police commissioner, said the two missing Uighurs were being investigated in the same manner as all foreigners suspected of breaching the country’s immigration laws.
“Our police forces are working to make an arrest of all immigrants who entered Cambodia illegally. These two Uighur men are also under our investigation,” he said, adding that around 40 foreign nationals were in custody for entering the country illegally.
The two escaped Uighurs have been unaccounted for since last week, before 20 others were taken to a site jointly monitored by the government and the UN’s refugee agency on December 16.
Rights activists say Cambodian authorities went to the site two days later and detained the 20 at gunpoint before putting them on a chartered plane to China the next night.
All 22 Uighurs had applied for refugee status through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Phnom Penh after fleeing ethnic violence in China’s restive Xinjiang province in July.
On Tuesday, Sister Denise Coughlan, director of Jesuit Refugee Services Cambodia, which was involved with the Uighur case, said she was “praying” for the safety of the two missing Uighurs. “I can’t imagine that Cambodia is a safe place for them anymore, so I hope they’ve escaped,” she said.Continue Reading →