That is the question (to paraphrase Shakespeare). On the surface it would appear that Cambodia again tarnished its international image and standing by sending back the 20 or so Uighurs. Of course, all human rights organizations, the UN, the U. S. administration, and whoever else felt sufficiently outraged, protested vehemently against the repatriation of the Uighur refugees. It is also clear that this step by the Cambodian government is not so hard to understand in the face of China’s Vice Premier Xi’s visit to Cambodia. After all, China is the single most significant donor for Cambodia. In comparison both Japan’s and Korea’s aid pales.
Nevertheless, one could argue that the return of the refugees could at least have been postponed until after a first hearing on the merits of their status, and personally, I do believe that would have been the right way to follow. However, realpolitik doesn’t follow human rights principles, as can be seen throughout the world, not only in developing countries but especially in the industrialized world, which is still struggling to come out of a deep recession. Economic interests have traditionally defeated human rights interests.
President Obama’s visit to China did not touch on the sensitive subject of human rights in China at all. With China being the largest U. S. T-bill holder, such an argument would be hard to make, now wouldn’t it? Therefore, it is hardly surprising that small Cambodia could not withstand China’s pressure either; and it got slammed for it from all sides. The spokesman for the U. S. State Department even said this would affect their future aid and their relationship with Cambodia. Whom is he trying to kid? We all know this is for public consumption. Nothing will change.
There are some bloggers who even say why blast Cambodia and not China? Here is an interesting post I found on the subject.
I am a US citizen, I live in the US, but I disagree with the US government on this point. These people enter Cambodia illegally, and thus it is lawfully to return them back to the country of origin. Even the US return thousands of Mexican who illegally enter the US.
Another question is, why are these people came all the way from China and stay in Cambodia. Why don't they stop in Vietnam, Lao, Thailand or even go to Muslim country like Malaysia or Indonesia, why stop in Cambodia!
So now Cambodia is to blame for this. This is unfair.
Why don't the US protest with China, why blame Cambodia. May be the US dare not challenge China because they are borrowing billions from China!!
As for refugee treaty, what treaty!?
When Thai dump Cambodian refugee into mine field at Phnom Dangrek, where are the International, where the UN, and the Human right group?!
Thousands of Cambodian refugees were massacred, machine gun by Thai soliders, thousands more died in mine field, and thousand more die of starvation in Phnom Dangrek. So one come to help us, none.
Later UN estimate 30,000 Cambodian refugee died at Phnom Dangrek alone, and that not counting Thai Shelling Cambodian refugee camps a long the border, Thai rape and murder thousands more who try to enter Khao I Dang camp.
The question posed by this poster has some validity. It is not only he who is wondering why those Uighurs came to Cambodia; a country that must be known even in their remote province for not having the most stellar human rights record. What comes to mind in terms of an explanation is that there used to be and probably still are a good number of illegal Chinese immigrants in Cambodia. Word might have reached Xinjiang province that Cambodia is an easy country to get into and to stay. The mistake they probably made is to contact the UNHCR office and ask them to prepare their application for asylum. Maybe they should have followed the example of their fellow countrymen and just tried to blend in with the pretty large Chinese community, or maybe they should have tried to get to Thailand. I wonder how that country would have dealt with them. But, of course, as Muslims they would probably have stood out and raised questions from the local authorities. Any way you look at it, this was an ill-conceived adventure.
The Chinese government branded them criminals. They were refugees from the ethnic riots in that province. A riot is an offense in any country, regardless of who provoked it. Frankly, I have no idea whether this would put them under the protection of the Convention.
The Convention states:
DEFINITION OF THE TERM "REFUGEE"
A. For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "refugee" shall apply
to any person who :
(1) Has been considered a refugee under the Arrangements of 12 May 1926 ! and 30 June 1928 or under the Conventions of 28 October 1933 and 10 February 1938, the Protocol of 14 September 1939 or the Constitution of the Internationa] Refugee Organization ;
Decisions of non-eligibility taken by the International Refugee Organ ization during the period of its activities shall not prevent the status of refugee being accorded to persons who fulfil the conditions of paragraph 2 of this section ;
(2) As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nation ality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country ; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it……………………
F. The provisions of this Convention shall not apply to any person with respect
to whom there are serious reasons for considering that :
(a) he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against
humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to
make provision in respect of such crimes ;
(b) he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of
refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee ;
(c) he has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the
The foregoing is probably the reason the U. S. stated that Cambodia ‘appears’ to have violated its obligations under the Convention. Well, those people might have committed crimes against peace as the article states. Yes, I know, surely not the babies, but their parents must have felt a need to flee from the Chinese authorities, and yes, I also know the Uighurs are a persecuted minority.
Nobody rushing to judgment on this knows the exact background of this whole story. I would also like to remind people in this context that 6 Uighurs were kept in Guantanamo for over 7 years although they were cleared of all charges. They were finally released this year and now reside in Palau. How is that for adherence to the principles of human rights? Who was that talking about the Convention, Janus?
When I first read about this, it was clear right away in my mind that the Uighurs would be returned. This is unfortunate, and we all would have wished for a different handling of the matter, and the Cambodian government could have for once basked in the applause from its harshest critics. However, the consequence would have been a serious disruption in their relationship with China. Therefore, the decision was a foregone conclusion. No matter how many people cry foul, this is what our world is like – materialism reigns. Sad but true.