Cambodia has endorsed China’s appeals for greater ASEAN security cooperation in fighting terrorism following Friday’s ministerial dialogue on regional law enforcement and security in Beijing, according to Chinese state media.
The calls came during the two-day summit at which China’s vice-minister of public security, Li Wei emphasised the need for more intelligence exchange and joint investigations, in particular in relation to the activities of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which Beijing deems terrorists.
Based in China’s restive western regions, the militant Uighur separatist group is believed to have ties to Muslim extremism, and Chinese police have claimed that its members have illegally crossed into Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia en route to the Middle East for training.
Sar Kheng, Cambodian vice-prime minister, is reported to have said it is necessary to establish an efficient and high-level communication platform under which ASEAN countries and China could build trust in combating such crimes.
However, rights groups have expressed concern that these mechanisms could be used as cover to airbrush ill-treatment of Uighurs and conflate refugees with terrorists.
“Cambodia and Thailand have now shown their willingness to toss aside basic obligations under international law to do Beijing’s bidding on this issue,” says Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director.
“Instead of blithely approving of Beijing’s approach, ASEAN countries should be pushing China to respect the rights to freedom of religious belief, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of movement.”
The Ministry of Interior declined to comment yesterday.