A Chinese-backed operation to track down the members of a Phnom Penh-based extortion ring resulted in the arrest of eight Taiwanese nationals on Saturday, following a previous raid that swept up 27 Taiwanese and Chinese suspects.
But while a team of Taiwanese officials was dispatched to Phnom Penh to negotiate the repatriation of their citizens, Cambodia intends to deport all 35 suspects to China at the request of Beijing, citing the government’s adherence to a “One China” policy.
Saturday’s arrests were made during a raid on an apartment in Russei Keo district, according to Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department.
“We confiscated computers, desk phones and voice-converting equipment,” Major General Heisla said.
The eight Taiwanese nationals apprehended—seven men and one woman—joined the 13 Taiwanese and 14 Chinese at the immigration department’s headquarters, he said.
“We will send all of them to China, maybe this week” he said. “We don’t draw a distinction, because there is ‘One China.’”
According to immigration police, the suspects had been using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology to extort money from victims in Taiwan and China, targeting vulnerable people with threats made under false names.
After the initial group of 27 was arrested at a villa in Chamkar Mon district on June 13, a group of officials led by Taiwan’s consular-general in Vietnam, Ling Kuan-Chung, arrived in Phnom Penh to negotiate their repatriation, said Frances Lee, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ms. Lee said the talks were ongoing and declined to address China’s claim to the suspects—or Cambodia acquiescence—directly.
“This is a judicial matter; it is not a political matter. So if there is any improper political pressure exerted by the third party, I don’t think it is proper,” she said by telephone from Taipei.
Cheng Hong Bo, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh, referred questions about the case to a colleague. The man, who refused to give his name but said he was in charge of law enforcement matters at the embassy, said all 35 suspects would be sent to China.
“Our Cambodian friends are preparing the paperwork,” he said. Asked why the Taiwanese suspects would not being deported to Taiwan, he said: “Please ask our Cambodian friends” and declined to comment further.
(Additional reporting by Sonia Kohlbacher)
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