Cambodia: UN agency protests deportation, disappearance of asylum seekers

Cambodia: UN agency protests deportation, disappearance of asylum seekers

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today said it has formally protested to the Cambodian authorities the reported deportation of two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners and the disappearance of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk - all three persons deemed to be in need of international protection by the UN agency.

According to a UNHCR spokesman, Falun Gong practitioner Li Guojun and his wife, Zhang Xinyi, were arrested in Phnom Penh on 2 August and their situation or whereabouts are unknown.

Shortly after their arrest, UNHCR made repeated efforts to contact the Cambodian authorities to have access to the detainees, obtain their release and ensure their protection, spokesman Kris Janowski said in Geneva.

"The husband and wife are persons of concern to UNHCR," he said. "Under international law, such persons are to be safeguarded from being sent back to their country of origin."

The arrest and deportation of the couple follows a mysterious disappearance from Phnom Penh and feared deportation to Viet Nam of the Venerable Thich Tri Luc, a Buddhist monk recognised as a refugee by UNHCR.

According to the spokesman, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, has raised the matter at the highest level and requested clarification. "[Mr. Lubbers] has also called on the Cambodian Government to renew its commitments as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and guarantee the protection of refugees and asylum seekers," Mr. Janowski added.