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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Gangsters' exempt from deportation

'Gangsters' exempt from deportation

chinese.jpg
chinese.jpg

Leaving or staying? A truckload of some of the 217 illegal Chinese immigrants

supposedly deported on Sep 23.

A SECRET operation by immigration police officials has allowed as many as 70 illegal

Chinese immigrants supposedly deported from Cambodia on Sep 30 to remain in the country,

their whereabouts unknown.

An Interior Ministry source who was present at the deportation proceedings at Pochentong

Military Airport on Sep 23 has told the Post he watched as 70 of the 217 Chinese

illegal immigrants were separated from the main group upon arrival at the airport.

The remaining 147 were loaded on to two China Southern Airlines aircraft chartered

by the Chinese government to return the group to China.

In a move apparently designed to foil media assembled at the gates of the airport,

immigration officials waited until after the departure of Cambodian government and

Chinese Embassy officials from the scene to transfer the 70 Chinese illegals to "an

undisclosed location near the airport".

That high-level police and Chinese Embassy officials both oversaw the deportation

and have subsequently refused to disclose a list enumerating the number of Chinese

deported suggests the secret operation was the result of collusion between representatives

of both governments.

Immigration Police Director Prok Saroeun has confirmed that not all of the 217 illegal

Chinese immigrants were deported as immigration and Chinese officials have previously

claimed, but insisted that reports that 70 were kept behind were "too high".

"Actually only twenty-eight [of the original 217] remain," Sarouen told

the Post, adding that "processing difficulties" had prompted the decision

not to deport the group.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chea Sophara also confirmed that the 28 Chinese were not

deported on Sep 31, adding that "hundreds more" illegal Chinese immigrants

known to authorities remain at large.

"The ministry in charge of this case seems to be ignoring it," Sophara

fumed. "This case will not be finished if the relevant ministry does not take

some real action."

However, an official in the Foreign Ministry verified that the actual number of Chinese

who avoided deportation on Sep 31 stood at 70.

The Foreign Ministry official added that the decision to allow the 70 unnamed Chinese

to remain in Cambodia served the interests of all involved.

"[The seventy Chinese] are all gangsters," the source told the Post. "They

can't go back [because] if they step foot in China, they're dead ... China doesn't

want them back anyway."

The official added that immigration police stand to profit handsomely by allowing

the 70 to remain in Cambodia.

"It's easy ... [the Chinese] pay ten or twenty thousand dollars [to the police]

and they can do what they want," the source explained.

"Police keep tabs on them and the Chinese know they can be jailed at any time,

so in six months the police can go back to them, ask for another twenty thousand

dollars and the Chinese will pay up."

The revelation of the fraudulent deportation operation is only the latest twist in

a bizarre saga that began with the arrest of 222 Chinese illegal immigrants at a

"safe house" in Toul Kork district on Aug 19.

A series of mysterious events plagued the official investigation into the Chinese

and the "snake head" organizers behind their entry into Cambodia. Two suspicious

fires at the Immigration Detention Center were believed to be intended to destroy

documentation regarding the 222 illegals.

Five of the Chinese later made a daring escape from the facility, reducing the total

number of illegals still in custody to 217.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chea Sophara later alleged high-ranking official involvement

in the trafficking of illegal Chinese immigrants in Cambodia and urged that the 217

face charges on illegal entry.

However, a Sep 20 scheduled court appearance was scuttled due to what was announced

at the time as "incomplete paperwork".

In the days that followed, the Chinese Embassy released a letter obliquely threatening

harm to the "friendly relations" between China and Cambodia if the 217

were tried, prompting the unannounced deportation operation on Sep 23 from which

media were barred.

Wu Jingshen, First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, rejected out of

hand the allegations that not all of the 217 Chinese illegals had been deported on

Sep 24.

Contacted yesterday regarding the allegations, he told the Post: "Chinese Embassy

officials were present during the entire deportation procedure. I can assure you

that all 217 were returned to China."

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