Cablegate: Corrected Copy - Deportation Scenario for 20 Uighur

DE RUEHPF #0954/01 3551123
O 211123Z DEC 09




E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019


PHNOM PENH 00000954 001.2 OF 004

Classified by Charge 'd Affaires Theodore Allegra
for reasons 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: On December 19 at 9:15 p.m., the Royal
Government of Cambodia (RGC) deported 20 Uighur
asylum-seekers back to China. Police removed the Uighurs
from their safe house on December 18 around 6:00 p.m., and
held them in a detention facility inside the Ministry of
Interior compound for 26 hours before placing the group on a
chartered jet that arrived from China. END SUMMARY.

Uigher Arrivals and Assistance

2. (C) The first known Uighur asylum-seeker arrived in Phnom
Penh on May 31; the remaining 21 arrived in October and
November. The Embassy first learned of the influx of Uighurs
to Cambodia on November 17, from a walk-in contact. All 22
sought assistance from JRS, which helped them file for asylum
with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
office in Phnom Penh. Up through December 16, JRS housed the
Uighurs in four locations. A four-person family (husband,
wife, 2-year-old child, 6-month-old infant) stayed inside the
JRS compound while the remaining Uighurs, all men, were
spread between three rental houses. However, the 18 living
outside the JRS compound were congregating at the largest of
the three rental properties and sleeping there together. JRS
provided money for food and other necessities, but the group
was doing its own shopping until early December. (NOTE:
UNHCR provides no assistance to asylum-seekers who are
awaiting refugee status determination. Asylum-seekers are
expected to find their own lodging, food, and other support.
UNHCR typically notes the availability of Jesuit Refugee
Services (JRS) for assistance if needed. JRS is the only NGO
in Cambodia providing regular legal and humanitarian
assistance to asylum-seekers. END NOTE.)

3. (C) On December 4, the Uighurs' presence in Cambodia
became widely known with the publication of information about
them in several newspapers, on the radio and Internet. The
Embassy urged UNHCR to reconsider providing protection to the
group, and UNHCR Regional Director Raymond Hall said the
agency began considering options for assisting the RGC in
providing increased security to the group.

5. (C) Based on a discussion December 14 between UNHCR
Deputy Regional Representative Giuseppe de Vincentis and
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, UNHCR and the RGC made joint
plans to relocate the Uighurs to a more secure location (Ref
D). Mid-day on December 16, UNHCR vehicles transported the
Uighurs to Montagnard Site 3, a restricted site managed by a
UNHCR implementing partner, and which houses approximately 90
Montagnard asylum-seekers and refugees awaiting resettlement.
(NOTE: Cambodian police did not transport the group, as
stated in an RGC diplomatic note. END NOTE.) Cambodian
National Police officers provided security for the Montagnard
site. The Uighurs spent the night of December 16 at Site 3
(Ref C).

6. (C) During the move, UNHCR and JRS discovered that 2
Uighurs were no longer present. Sister Denise Coghlan told
Pol Chief that the two were believed to have run away on
their own (Ref C). According to JRS, the two left the large
rental house around 3:00 p.m. on December 15, telling their
companions that they were returning to one of the other
rental houses in order to do laundry; they took their
wallets, including some money, and their "person of concern"
letters when they departed the house. The remaining Uighurs
told JRS they believed the two had decided to spend the night
at one of the other houses. Consequently, when JRS checked
in with the group by cell phone the night of December 15, the
16 at the house did not alert JRS that the two had not
returned. UNHCR noticed the absence when they conducted a
roll-call December 16 at Site 3 following the move. The
group then explained the circumstances to UNHCR and JRS.

7. (C) On the afternoon of December 17, UNHCR relocated the
Uighur group a second time, to a limited-access safe house
rented by UNHCR, which was to be jointly managed by UNHCR and
the RGC. JRS reported that they had full access to the safe
house and the Uighurs. The JRS legal advocate made an
unannounced visit to the house the afternoon of December 18,
and was allowed access without problems. The JRS advocate
last saw the group at approximately 4:30 p.m. on December 18,
when she departed the safe house.

PHNOM PENH 00000954 002.2 OF 004

Classified by Charge d' Affaires Theodore Allegra
for reasons 1.4 (B, D)

RGC About Face

8. (SBU) The RGC maintained a consistent response through
December 17, claiming that it would abide by its obligations
under the UN Refugee Convention. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
spokesman Koy Kuoung noted December 17 that the RGC was
"cooperating with UNHCR to conduct interviews to determine
whether the Uighurs are eligible for refugee status."

9. (C) On December 18, the Embassy learned from UNHCR that
the RGC had signed the long-awaited Sub-Decree implementing
Cambodia's obligations under the UN Refugee Convention (Ref
A). The Sub-Decree had been under review for months, and was
not expected to be put into effect until early 2010. The
Sub-Decree assigned full power for making RSD decisions to
the Minister of Interior, which was in keeping with UNHCR's
expectation. However, immediately after the Sub-Decree was
signed, Acting Minister of the Interior Em Sam An signed an
order authorizing the deportation of the Uighurs within 7
days under the Immigration Law.

10. (SBU) The RGC tone in public statements also changed
abruptly late on December 18, when Interior Ministry
spokesman Khieu Sopheak suddenly declared that the group
"were not real refugees" but rather "criminals escaping from
China and involved with a terrorist organization." The
comment and tone was nearly identical to statements made by a
spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on
December 15 and repeated on December 17.


11. (C) At 7:00 p.m. on December 18, when a source at the
RGC Refugee Office told UNHCR that the Uighurs would be
deported. The initial report that the group had been placed
on an outbound commercial flight to China at 6:00 p.m. proved
false. Further investigation revealed the Uighurs were still
in Cambodia and detained at a municipal detention facility
inside the Ministry of Interior (MOI) compound. To monitor
the potential refoulement of the group, the U.S. Embassy,
UNHCR, and a few NGOs provided coverage at the airport until
the last outbound commercial flight to China departed at 2:00
a.m. December 19 with no sign the Uighurs had been moved from
the detention facility. The same groups monitored
commericial flight departures bound for China at 8:00 a.m.
and 11:30 a.m. December 19, with no sign of the Uighurs.

12. (C) Reports indicated that police removed the Uighur
group at gunpoint from the safe house and transported them to
the detention center at the MOI compound around 6:00 p.m.
December 18. According to text messages coming from a mobile
phone belonging to the one woman in the group, and likely
written by the the one Uighur who arrived May 31 and who
spoke English, the 20 Uighurs were held in two small cells at
the detention center; many were kept handcuffed. Reports
indicated police were rough with several of the Uighurs
during the removal from the safe house.


13. (C) A JRS observer saw a bus entering the MOI compound
around 3:00 p.m. December 19. Monitoring at the airport
continued at 4:45 p.m. after discussion with multiple sources
unearthed credible information that a chartered jet from
China would arrive to transport the Uighurs back to China.
At 7:15 p.m., JRS observers monitoring the Ministry of
Interior compound reported that a bus with curtains drawn on
all windows departed the MOI compound under police escort.
JRS attempted to follow the bus, but eventually lost it in
traffic. By 7:40 p.m., UNHCR observers stationed near the
entrance to the military airbase reported seeing a similar
bus enter the secured area.

14. (C) Shortly thereafter UNHCR also observed a plane
approaching for a landing at the airport, although no
commercial flight arrival was scheduled. Minutes later,
Embassy and NGO observers at the main airport saw a plane
taxiing without lights from the runway towards the airbase,
followed shortly thereafter by a fuel truck and truck-mounted
boarding stairs. Observers could not see the plane
thereafter, and were unable to see if or when boarding

PHNOM PENH 00000954 003.2 OF 004

Classified by Charge d' Affaires Theodore Allegra
for reasons 1.4 (B, D)

occurred. NGO observers stated that a plane suddenly
reappeared from the far side of the airport at 8:55 p.m.,
taxiing directly to the runway. MOI spokesman Khieu Sopheak
stated that the plane carrying 20 Uighurs departed at 9:15
p.m. bound for China. Observers asked airport ground staff
which plane it was, and were told the plane was a "VIP plane
to China" that was not on the regular departure schedule.
The Embassy confirmed the unscheduled nature of the departure
after checking to see that all regularly scheduled commercial
flights were still on the ground.

NGO Response

15. (SBU) NGOs and international organizations immediately
condemned the deportation in the strongest possible terms.
UNHCR expressed deep distress at this "grave breach of
international refugee law." Country Representative for the
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Christophe Peschoux said the decision violated not just the
UN Refugee Convention, but also the Convention Against
Torture and the Convention on Civil and Political Rights.
The head of JRS, Sister Denise Coghlan, called the
deportation "a betrayal of trust and a terrible
violation...given that we've seen a realtively humane policy
to refugees until now."

Uighur Asylum Seekers

16. (C) By date of arrival in Phnom Penh, the Uighur
asylum-seekers are listed below. At COB December 21, numbers
5 an 6 remain unaccounted for.

May 31
(C) 1. Tuniyazi Aikebaierjiang, male, DOB 13-FEB-1982,
Nationality Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur

October 1
(C) 2. Mutallip Mamut, male, DOB 10-JUL-1980, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 3. Islam Urayin, male, DOB 16-JUL-1980, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 4. Hazirtiele Umar, male, DOB 07-JUN-1990, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur

November 1
(C) 5. Ruzi Ali, male, DOB 04-DEC-1976, Nationality Chinese,
Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 6. Amiu Muhamad, male, DOB 20-OCT-1985, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 7. Omar Mohammed, male, DOB 07-MAR-1971, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 8. Mahmut Bilal, male, DOB 07-MAR-1983, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 9. Turik Muhamed, male, DOB 04-DEC-1984, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 10. Ebrayim Mamat, male, 10-AUG-1972, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 11. Mamat Ali, male, DOB 16-JUL-1972, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 12. Ali Ahmat, male, DOB 29-DEC-1979, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 13. Ali Nur, male, DOB 15-MAY-1979, Nationality Chinese,
Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 14. Kuban Kanwul, male, DOB 09-JAN-1977, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 15. Muhamad Musa, male, DOB 15-JUN-1987, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 16. Amat Eli, male, DOB 01-JAN-1967, Nationality Chinese,
Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 17. Abdugheni Halil, male, DOB 08-FEB-1987, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 18. Abdulla Kasim, male, DOB 02-OCT-1986, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur

November 4 - family of four
(C) 19. Abdugheni Abdulkadir, male, DOB 07-OCT-1987,
Nationality Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 20. Kurban Shaida, female, DOB 01-JUL-1989, Nationality
Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur (pregnant)
(C) 21. Abdugheni Bilal, male, DOB 17-JUL-2008, Nationality

PHNOM PENH 00000954 004.2 OF 004

Classified by Charge d' Affaires Theodore Allegra
for reasons 1.4 (B, D)

Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur
(C) 22. Abdugheni Maymuna, female, DOB 28-JUN-2009,
Nationality Chinese, Ethnicity Uighur

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Save The Children: World Leaders Urged To Halt Escalating Hunger Crisis

A group of 120 non-governmental organisations has joined forces in an open letter calling on world leaders to do more to halt a devastating global hunger crisis as new analysis shows the number of people likely to be in need of humanitarian aid in 2022 could rise by 17%...More>>

WMO: Another La Niña Impacts Temperatures And Precipitation – But Not Climate Change
La Niña has developed for the second consecutive year and is expected to last into early 2022, influencing temperatures and precipitation. Despite the cooling influence of this naturally occurring climate phenomenon, temperatures in many parts of the world are expected to be above average because of the accumulated heat trapped in the atmosphere...

UN: Violations Of Palestinian Rights Puts Two-State Solution At Risk, Chief Warns
The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, continues to pose a significant challenge to international peace and security, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said on Monday... More>>

World Food Programme: Millions More In Need Of Food Assistance As A Direct Result Of Conflict In Northern Ethiopia

The number of people in need of humanitarian food assistance across northern Ethiopia has grown to an estimated 9.4 million as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today... More>>

Food: Three Billion People Cannot Afford A Healthy Diet

Approximately three billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population, cannot afford a healthy diet and another one billion people would join their ranks should further unpredictable events reduce incomes by one-third, the UN food agency said, launching a new report on Tuesday... More>>

COP26: Enough Of ‘Treating Nature Like A Toilet’ – Guterres Brings Stark Call For Climate Action To Glasgow
As the World Leaders Summit opened on day two of COP26, UN chief António Guterres sent a stark message to the international community. “We are digging our own graves”, he said, referring to the addiction to fossil fuels which threatens to push humanity and the planet, to the brink, through unsustainable global heating... More>>

  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC