Cambodian authorities were not told that two Falun Gong members deported to China earlier this month were under UN protection, National Police Chief Hok Lundy said Wednesday.
But he warned that Cambodian officials were committed to cracking down on foreign visitors whose interests threatened neighboring countries or other countries. The deportations drew criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and from visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson. Both condemned Cambodia for deporting the two members of the religion Beijing considers an “evil cult.”
“The UNHCR’s reaction was wrong, because the UNHCR hid both these Chinese people and did not tell us they were political asylum seekers,” Hok Lundy said, speaking to reporters at the Ministry of Interior.
“Our police arrested them and couldn’t find any passports, so we considered them illegal immigrants,” he said. “If UNHCR and [UNHCHR] had informed our police, of course we would have taken care of them, but we had already sent the two Chinese people back to China when UNHCR and [UN Human Rights] reacted.”
However, the UNHCR’s statement condemning the deportations claimed UNHCR workers had repeatedly tried to contact the Chinese couple while they were being detained before being deported.
Hok Lundy said it was the government’s policy to deport illegal immigrants and arrest troublemaking foreigners. “If [foreigners] come to Cambodia to create so-called movements against neighboring countries or against their own native countries, this violates the Cambodian Constitution and…the authorities must arrest them,” the police chief said.
“The Chinese have signed a security cooperation agreement with our Ministry of Interior, so we must cooperate to crack down on insurrection movements, criminal acts, drug trafficking and illegal immigration.”
Most of all, Hok Lundy said, “Why did UNHCR take people who were involved in political activism [in China] and hide them in Cambodia?”
UNHCR officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.