Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Detained Chinese claim neglect

Detained Chinese claim neglect

Detained Chinese claim neglect

chinese.jpg
chinese.jpg

KANG-YI! Kang-yi! - A group of Chinese youths who have posted themselves as

lookouts on the roof of the otherwise nondescript villa in Kien Svay village in

Kandal Province begin loudly chanting the Chinese word for "protest" at the

sight of any approaching visitors.

A horde of detained Chinese shout their complaints from the rooftop of their villa-prison

The cry is quickly taken up by other

strident voices, their owners invisible behind the villa's high walls, competing

with the traffic noise for dominance and making the dozen or so immigration

police and gendarmarie on duty outside the villa visibly uneasy.

On July

17, the 95 Chinese nationals being detained in this villa 20 kilometers from

Phnom Penh on Route 1 were arrested as part of an ongoing- and what the Chinese

Embassy in Phnom Penh has alleged is a discriminatory - crackdown on illegal

Chinese immigration through Cambodia.

As part of a new twist on the

treatment of Chinese illegal immigrants, immigration police are detaining them

in the "safe houses" in which they are found, while saddling the owners of the

premises with the responsibility of providing food for the detainees.

The

policy is a result of what immigration police officials describe as detention

center facilities and budgets hopelessly overburdened by the arrest of almost

400 illegal Chinese immigrants in just the past month.

It's a policy that

the 95 Chinese detainees in Kien Svay, who claim to hail from a mixture of

Fukien, Yunnan and Guangdong provinces, say is denying them basic provisions of

clean water, food and clothing.

"We have no clothes!" screamed one young

man wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist. "The police stole

everything from us, and have left us to starve."

Detainees who spoke to

the Post claimed that adequate food and basic health and hygiene conditions were

not being supplied to them by the authorities.

"We're hungry; we have not

had anything to eat today," another young male detainee called from the roof.

"There is no running water in this building and we have to shit outside ...

Please help us!"

Guards at the site admitted that there had been problems

in getting the villa's owner, Sa Rin, Stung Treng provincial police military

deputy commander, to provide the necessary food for the 97 detainees.

Rin

and his wife claimed to have rented the house to a Chhay Chanthou and to have

had no knowledge of the illegal Chinese immigrants.

The guards denied

that sanitary conditions were a problem in the villa, and assured the Post and

representatives of the human rights group Licadho that a district Khmer-Chinese

Association had agreed to shoulder the responsibility of supplying the

detainees' food.

However, attempts by both the Post and Licadho on Oct

22 to independently confirm the detainees' allegations were

unsuccessful.

Guards manning the gate told the Post that permission of

the District Governor was needed to enter the tightly guarded villa, while the

District Governor in turn insisted that the Interior Ministry regulated access

to the detainees.

Prum Sokha, Secretary of State for the Ministry of

Interior, in turn told Licadho representatives that access to the villa was the

responsibility of the immigration police.

Immigration officials later

rebuffed attempts made by representatives of United Nations Center for Human

Rights to gain access to the villa, while UNHCHR efforts to enlist the

assistance of the International Committee of the Red Cross for assistance were

equally unsuccessful.

In spite of the efforts of police sentries to

prevent outside contact with the villa's occupants, from an adjacent property

the Post was able to speak with several detainees who painted a grim picture of

hunger, filth and degenerating health conditions inside the villa.

"About

ten people here have eye infections and several others have skin infections

because there's no running water in this building " a detainee in his early

twenties said angrily. "No-one from the Chinese Embassy has checked on us here

... We've been abandoned."

Attempts by the Post to contact Chinese

Embassy officials in Phnom Penh regarding the detainees plight were

unsuccessful.

Although the detainees conceded that a doctor had visited

the villa, they claimed that his assistance had been "useless". "I can't believe

that was a real doctor," one man said.

Other claims made by members of

the group were more questionable.

"We are tourists from China," a man

replied when asked why he had entered Cambodia, provoking a ripple of knowing

smiles and laughter from his companions. "We don't understand why we're being

held here ... We just want to go home."

When asked if any members of the

group wanted to go to a third country such as the United States, a young man who

raised his hand and voiced his interest was shouted down by his

companions.

Others in the group alleged that in addition to being robbed

by police, those who had protested their treatment had been beaten by their

police guards.

"They've hit us with sticks," a detainee shouted. "They

beat us for no reason!"

When the Post revisited the villa on Oct 27, the

detainees said that conditions had improved slightly, but concerns regarding the

fate of their personal belongings and allegations of police brutality

continued.

Guards on duty outside the villa, however, say any violence

that has occurred has been wrought by the detainees themselves.

"Those

people are very unreasonable," an immigration policeman said of the detainees,

shaking his head wearily. "They've destroyed everything in the house ... That's

why the place is a mess."

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