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UN strong in protest at deportations

UN strong in protest at deportations

T HE UN's Human Rights Envoy to Cambodia has slammed a decision to repatriate a group

of 19 political dissidents to Vietnam as a snub to accepted international practice.

"This is a very serious rejection of the international mechanism when it comes

to upholding the rights of refugees," according to Thomas Hammarberg - the UN

Secretary General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia.

"The end result is that you now have an unnecessary situation where this country

may be criticized for its bad handling of this case," he said.

The fate of the nineteen deported to Vietnam remained unclear at press time after

their Dec 6 deportation and arrest by Vietnamese authorities later the same day.

Eight others, who were in possession of Cambodian citizenship papers, were released

by Phnom Penh authorities after being warned not to participate in anti-Hanoi activities.

Another man - an American citizen - was deported to the US because his Cambodian

visa had reportedly expired.

The 28 - including three women and a monk- are members of the People's Action Party

of Free Vietnam (PAPFV), a group which Hanoi claims is dedicated to the overthrow

of Vietnam's government.

The PAPFV is said to have several hundred members, many of whom are alleged to have

been officers in the former Army of the Republic of Vietnam which was defeated by

communist forces in 1975.

Officials claim the group was arrested after they violated Cambodian immigration

law by attempting to enter Thailand through the border town of Poipet in order to

attend a PAPFV meeting.

According to a human rights worker who interviewed members of the group before the

deportation, they were arrested Nov 30 before being trucked to a detention center

at Pochentong airport.

Their swift deportation brought strong protests from both the UN Center for Human

Rights and the UN Commission for Refugees as being unduly hasty and in contravention

of an international treaty signed by Cambodia.

According to Special Representative Hammarberg, the spirit of Cambodia's reaction

to the group was "very negative".

"Here you have a group of people, some of whom didn't have [citizenship] documentation,

but who were asking for asylum because of the risk of detention they faced in Vietnam,"

he said.

Cambodia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention which states that such claims

should be investigated, but in this case those claims were not, he said.

"The United Nation's High Commission for Refugees is here [in Cambodia] to help

the government in terms of it meeting its obligations to that convention. They had

already started their work and had appealed for more time, but the deportations went

ahead anyway.

"Niether I nor the high Commissioner's office can see the need for this situation,"

Hammarberg said.

The latest incident follows similar deportations earlier this year. On March 9 Ly

Chandara - the editor of the Vietnamese language newspaper Tudo (Freedom) - was arrested

and handed over to Vietnamese authorities on the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

The deportation of two other men associated with Chandara and three ethnic Vietnamese

with US nationality around the same time, prompted a group of more than 50 Vietnamese

to seek asylum at the US embassy in Phnom Penh on March 15.

Asylum was refused on the strength of assurances from Interior Minister Sar Kheng

that the asylum seekers would not be deported if they obeyed Cambodian law.

According to human rights sources, Ly Chandara and another March deportee, Ly Thara,

have since returned to Cambodia but have been warned not to get involved in anti-Hanoi

politics.

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