Cambodian, French and Chinese officials were tight-lipped yesterday about detained French citizen Patrick Devillers, who has been tenuously linked to the corruption scandal that ended the career of Chinese politician Bo Xilai and has seen his wife implicated in the killing of a British businessman.
According to reports from close friends, Devillers was arrested more than a week ago on undisclosed charges, and after confirming his arrest and China’s involvement, officials close to the case have refused to offer any further details.
That line held true yesterday.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak had “no new information” to disclose, as did Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a French Embassy spokesperson, the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and Chinese officials.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, called the opacity of the proceedings “extremely worrisome”, and Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Ou Virak claimed they violated international law.
“China’s human rights record is poor, and we have reason to believe that he will be tortured and imprisoned,” he said. “If Cambodia can see that he won’t be treated fairly, then they don’t need to extradite him. In fact, they’re obligated to let him go.”
However, according to Ou Virak, that prospect is unlikely. Cambodia, he says, simply has more to gain from complying with China than it stands to lose by angering France.
The same day Devillers was reportedly arrested, He Guoqiang, head of China’s anti-corruption bureau, signed a $430 million loan to Cambodia in Phnom Penh. In 2009, Cambodia cancelled the UN’s asylum proceedings of a group of 20 ethnic Uighurs, summarily deporting them to China the day before its vice president arrived to sign a $1.2 billion aid and loan package.
“It’s very hard to say exactly what happens behind closed doors when Chinese officials meet the Cambodian government,” said Robertson. “But it’s quite clear that Cambodia seems to be unusually responsive when China wants something.”