Cambodian Commentators Used to Back Up Chinese Crackdown

Chinese state media has quoted a Cambodian government official and a local analyst in a story defending China’s actions in a northwestern region inhabited by the Uighur ethnic group.

China has said that Islamic “religious extremists” are responsible for riots in Xinjiang province, in which police stations, a local government building and other properties were attacked last week in an area where Muslim Uighurs want independence from the Chinese state.

A report by state-owned news agency Xinhua on Monday said rioters killed a total of 24 people and police shot 11 rioters. “The police shot and killed 11 rioters at the scene and captured another four,” the report says.

The Xinhua report cites “experts” saying the Chinese authorities had “a responsibility to crack down on the recent attacks in Xinjiang and the international community should strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

Among other international commentators in the article, Cambodian Coun­cil of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan was paraphrased by Xinhua saying he hoped for a peaceful solution. But in a quote, Mr. Siphan ap­peared to support Chinese government intervention. “Any violent activities should be ended,” Mr. Siphan was quoted as saying. “A strict law implementation must be applied.”

Mr. Siphan said Monday that under Cambodia’s Constitution, the country does not interfere with the domestic situations in sovereign states. “Our government never encourages any government to engage with violence,” he said. “We wish for a peaceful solution.”

The Xinhua article also quoted Sok Touch, deputy director of the International Relations Institute of Cambodia—a government-founded, but purportedly independent think tank. Mr. Touch, according to Xinhua, “said Islamic extremists attempted to separate the Xinjiang region from China through religion.”

Mr. Touch clarified Monday that his view was that the Uighur population of Xinjiang should be free to practice their religion and not be subject to discrimination.

Mr. Touch said that, in general, it was not a good idea for governments to try to quell unrest through force.

“The government [of any state] has the right to use armed forces to defend security, and I understand that it is not good to crack down,” he said explaining that though force may keep order temporarily, the tactic was unlikely to ensure long-term peace in a restive area.

Cambodia’s ties to China have grown stronger in recent years, leading to concerns that Cambodia’s diplomatic dealings are under the influence of its benefactor.

In 2009, Cambodia received widespread criticism after it deported 20 Uighur asylum seekers to China despite concerns over the treatment they would receive on return.

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