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Cablegate: Cambodia, Unhcr, and the Uighurs: The Madness Of

VZCZCXRO2738
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0960/01 3561047
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 221047Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1504
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2600
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1721

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000960

SIPDIS

GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2019
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM PGOV CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIA, UNHCR, AND THE UIGHURS: THE MADNESS OF
THE METHOD (PART II)

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 954 (DEPORTATION SCENARIO)
B. PHNOM PENH 953 (NOTAL)
C. PHNOM PENH 934 (UIGHURS MOVE AGAIN)
D. PHNOM PENH 926 (AMBASSADOR MEETING WITH DPM SAR KHENG)
E. PHNOM PENH 925 (UPDATE ON UIGHUR ASYLUM-SEEKERS)
F. PHNOM PENH 913 (AMBASSADOR MEETING WITH UNHCR)

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires TheodoreAllegra; Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: During a December 21 meeting with Charge and other
diplomatic representatives to discuss the Royal Government of
Cambodia's (RGC) refoulement of 20 Uighur asylum seekers December 19
(Ref A), UNHCR Regional Representative Raymond Hall stated that
although Cambodia had tried hard over the years to assume refugee
responsibilities, it was unable to withstand direct pressure from
China in its first major test. Hall confirmed that UNHCR had made no
special accommodations for protection or processing of this group,
despite the high visibility and Chinese pressure attendant to their
cases, but acknowledged that with the "wisdom of hindsight" the UNHCR
might have handled the Uighur case differently. To that end, Hall
confirmed that UNHCR would take "extraordinary measures" on behalf of
the two remaining Uighur asylum seekers still presumed to be in
Cambodia. He emphasized that a "single act of political
interference" should not eclipse a past record of accomplishment in
which "significant protection" had been provided to refugees in
Cambodia over the years. Nonetheless, pending notification of RGC
intentions, he said the UNHCR would reassess its role in Cambodia and
likely disengage from the refugee status determination process. This
is part II of a two-part message; a report on Charge's meeting the
same day with RGC Deputy Foreign Minister Long Visalo is Septel. END
SUMMARY.

UNHCR and the RGC Trade Dip Notes
---------------------------------

2. (C) UNHCR Regional Representative Raymond Hall began his briefing
with a review of official exchanges between the UNHCR and RGC as
deportation became imminent (copies sent to EAP/MLS). In response to
verbal notification from the RGC December 18 that deportation was
imminent, the UNHCR delivered a diplomatic note warning that
deportation before full examination of refugee claims would be a
"grave breach of international law." The following day, UNHCR sent
another note expressing "grave concern" at the imminent deportation
which was "contrary to the commitments" Cambodia had assumed as a
signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. On that same day, an RGC
note to UNHCR (copied to the Chinese Embassy) affirmed that there
were only 20 Uighurs in the temporary resettlement and that "the
UNHCR should take responsibility for the disappearance of two Uighur
Chinese asylum seekers." In a response December 20, the UNHCR made
clear that any future actions with the RGC on the case of the two
would depend on the outcome of discussions on protection and claims
assessments that conform to international standards.

UNHCR Role and Responsibilities
-------------------------------

3. (C) UNHCR Regional Director Raymond Hall reviewed his "cordial"
earlier meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Long Visalo, who did
"not express an aggressive view" of the situation, appeared to
understand the issues at stake, and expressed a keen interest in
continued cooperation with the UNHCR. In response to various queries
by diplomatic representatives, Hall described the role of the UNHCR
in this case. He noted that Cambodia had been "solely responsible"
for refugee status determination since June 1, 2008. Furthermore,
the two sides had established jointly agreed procedures for joint
registration and, for those 59 individuals in Cambodia with refugee
status, jointly administered food and lodging. Referring to DFM Long
Visalo's assertion that UNHCR had not cooperated in providing the
notifications required under the relevant joint procedures, Hall said
he "profoundly disagreed" with that assessment and said that all
appropriate notifications had been made to Ministry of Interior
officials, although he conceded that UNHCR had not seen the necessity
to work also with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials for that
purpose.

4. (C) Hall continued that, until the Uighur cases, asylum seekers
were jointly registered fairly rapidly and their status honored. He
affirmed that UNHCR took no responsibility for protection, policing,
accommodation or general care and maintenance of asylum seekers.
Groups such as Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) took on those roles, he
said. When several Ambassadors and Charge pressed him on that point
with respect to the Uighurs given their high visibility and public
and likely private pressure from China, Hall stated that the UNCHR
had "scrupulously observed" agreed joint procedures with the RGC for
registration and notification but had made "no special accommodation"
for the Uighur asylum cases. He added that UNHCR practice was to
make "mandate determinations" independently only in "non-signatory"
countries and that it would have been a "breach of agreement" with

PHNOM PENH 00000960 002 OF 002


the RGC to do so when things were proceeding well.

5. (C) Hall assessed that there was a very real effort by many
components of the Cambodian government to honor the Uighurs'
protected status as asylum seekers, but that the "political realities
simply did not allow" space for that to continue. He believed that
the decision to deport the Uighurs was made at the top level of the
RGC, but not until December 18. The level of pressure exerted was
obvious on December 20 -- after the deportation -- when plain clothes
police visited locations inhabited by asylum seekers to check on
documents, but presumably in search of the remaining two Uighurs.
Nonetheless, this decision to deport Uighurs back to China should not
eclipse a past record of accomplishment in which "significant
protection" had been provided to refugees in Cambodia over the years,
he stressed.

6. (C) When Charge inquired about what UNHCR would do if the two
missing Uighur asylum seekers came to the UNHCR office seeking
protection, Hall answered that UNHCR would "wish to enter into
discussions about their cases" with the RGC, but confirmed that UNHCR
would not tell the Cambodia government where they were located.
Following that, he said there were two options: (1) to arrive at an
"exceptional agreement" with the RGC despite the lack of a refugee
status determination, and seek to have them leave the country in
response to "an evacuation offer" from another government; or (2) to
undertake an independent mandate determination and thereafter
approach interested governments for emergency expedited resettlement.
There was "little likelihood of success" for the first option, he
mused, because of Chinese pressure to find the pair and deport them
back to China. And he said that exercising the second option would
likely prompt the RGC to "close the UNHCR office in Cambodia."

UNHCR'S Future Role In Cambodia
-------------------------------

7. (C) UNHCR now faces a dilemma, said Hall. It could try to renew
its productive record with Cambodia of the past, or it could step
back from much of its mission in Cambodia to the point where "no one
will be protected." Hall said that he has requested a meeting with
the RGC to discuss the UNHCR's role under a new subdecree issued
December 17 to regularize the process under which the RGC has broader
responsibilities of adjudication vis a vis UNHCR. In response to
speculation that the subdecree had contributed to the Uighur
deportation, and was indeed issued December 17 to support that
result, Hall said the subdecree was a long awaited document and was
not in conflict with international law. Nonetheless, Hall added that
UNHCR's future collaboration will obviously be "colored by this
event," and that, even if UNHCR stops assistance with the
adjudication process, it might still continue with training and
capacity-building efforts.

8. (C) COMMENT: During this sober and frank session with diplomatic
representatives acutely aware of UNHCR usual roles and
responsibilities, Hall put off most of the group by beginning with a
recitation of the official diplomatic exchanges that had occurred
when things started to go from bad to worse for the Uighur asylum
seekers. Only when he began a similar recitation of roles and
responsibilities pursuant to the joint agreement with the RGC to
justify UNHCR's distance from obvious protection issues and
processing delays did he seem to recognize how divorced from reality
that presentation seemed under the current circumstances. He then
stated multiple times that, with the benefit of hindsight, UNHCR
would have done things differently. And though some in the group
argued that it was foresight rather than hindsight that really
mattered here, Hall appeared to be sincerely interested in doing
whatever possible for the two remaining Uighur asylum seekers still
unaccounted for. All recognized, however, how difficult success
would be in that effort under either of the two options presented by
Hall, even given the "keen interest" the RGC now says exists in favor
of future joint determinations of refugee status in accordance with
international standards. END COMMENT.

ALLEGRA

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