In the latest crackdown on internet scam operations in Cambodia, 61 people were deported to mainland China on Saturday amid protest from Taiwan, which claimed 19 were Taiwanese nationals who should have instead faced justice at home.
The deportees were arrested earlier this month during raids in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk after investigations revealed that they were using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to extort money, according to Uk Hai Sela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Immigration.
Thirty-nine of the suspects held Chinese passports, while the others were undocumented, Hai Sela said. He denied that any of those deported were Taiwanese and claimed media reports to the contrary had been erroneous.
According to the Taipei Times, however, 19 of the suspects were identified as nationals of the self-governing island, and the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had requested that it be allowed to collaborate in the operation and extradite the group to Taiwan.
“However, due to its conformity to the ‘one China’ principle and pressure from Beijing, Phnom Penh not only denied us a visit with the suspects, but also complied with China’s demand to deport the suspects there,” the ministry is quoted as saying in an article published yesterday.
Officials at Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
The Cambodian government adheres to Bejing’s “One China’’ policy, which holds Taiwan to be a breakaway province of the mainland, and has repeatedly ignored Taiwan’s requests for nationals to be returned to the island for trial, leaving alleged offenders from Taiwan regularly facing Beijing’s justice system instead.
Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson blasted the Cambodian government’s decision, calling it “a serious abuse of these persons’ human rights, especially since it is highly unlikely they will receive a fair trial”.
“The government refuses to send them back to Taipei because this is part of the quid pro quo for Phnom Penh to receive continuing generous support from Beijing,” he said in an email. “
Taiwan should make a public protest, but really the only thing that will get the Cambodian government’s attention is if Taiwanese investors vote with their feet, deciding to withdraw and take their investments and business somewhere else.”