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Cablegate: (C) Update On Uighur Asylum-Seekers in Cambodia

VZCZCXRO7523
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0925 3500918
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 160918Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1459
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 2585
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 1704
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L PHNOM PENH 000925

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, PRM
GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2019
TAGS: PREF PREL PGOV PHUM CB
SUBJECT: (C) UPDATE ON UIGHUR ASYLUM-SEEKERS IN CAMBODIA

REF: PHNOM PENH 913

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CAROL A. RODLEY FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) Representatives of the United Nations High Commission
on Refugees (UNHCR) and the Royal Government of Cambodia
(RGC) are close to finding a new location for the Uighur
asylum-seekers in Phnom Penh that would offer improved
protection. According to UNHCR, the goal is to house the
Uighurs in a separate, single house and officials have
identified two possible locations. They are working toward
finalizing a contract one of the properties. In the
meantime, to improve protection for the group immediately,
the group is being moved December 16 to UNHCR's Montagnard
Site 3, the last remaining Montagnard site in Phnom Penh,
which houses approximately 90 Montagnard asylum-seekers and
refugees. The move to Site 3 is a temporary relocation, as a
separate dwelling is believed to be the best solution for the
Uighurs. During the move, it was discovered that two Uighurs
were no longer present, and are believed to have run away on
their own.

2. (C) Refugee assistance groups expressed some concern
about the issue of access to the Uighurs once they are moved
to a new location. In conversation, UNHCR officials are not
committing to maintaining access to the Uighurs by those
providing humanitarian assistance, or the Uighurs' access to
outside legal representation. UNHCR says these concerns are
"under discussion" and ultimately for the RGC to decide.
UNHCR Senior Protection Officer Toshi Kawauchi told Poloff
the most important issue is finding a secure place for the
Uighurs first, and then they will turn to considerations of
access. (COMMENT: Post believes it is crucial to establish
rules of access from the outset, before the group is moved,
rather than trying to break through a barrier once the group
relocates. We understand Bangkok RefCoord Office is engaging
Bangkok UNHCR on this issue. END COMMENT.)

3. (SBU) The Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
publicly confirmed Chinese government interest in the case on
December 14. MFA spokesman Koy Kuong said the Chinese
Embassy in Phnom Penh sent a diplomatic note referring to the
"Uighur Chinese," but did not release the contents of the
note. On December 15, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign
Ministry stated that the Uighurs are "involved in crimes,"
and "the international refugee protection system should not
be a haven for criminals to evade legal sanctions."

4. (SBU) The RGC has maintained that it will not return any
Uighur to China who is determined to have a legitimate
political asylum claim, nor will they return anyone facing
prosecution for those crimes in which the death sentence is a
penalty. MFA spokesman Koy Kuong told the local press on
December 15 that "the Cambodian government has not made any
decision yet. We are waiting until interviews are done to
find the real status of these people." (NOTE: Post will
speak with contacts working with the Uighurs to learn more
about the asylum-seekers' personal histories. END NOTE.)
RODLEY

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