Influence of VN, China Concerns Robinson

UN High Commissioner for Hu­man Rights Mary Robinson on Thursday expressed concern that the governments of China and Vietnam exerted a “worrying influence” on Cambodia and co­erced Cambodia to hand over three refugees—two Falun Gong practitioners and a dissident Vietnamese monk—to the countries that persecuted them.

Speaking at a news conference be­fore she departed for East Timor, Robinson said she re­ceived a background briefing from the UN that stated that the Vietnamese monk, Thich Tri Luc, was brought back “against his will” to Vietnam.

She said the two Falun Gong practitioners who were deported by the government, Li Guonjun and Zhang Xinyi, might have been deported at the urging of the Chinese government.

Her comments come two days after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva released a statement condemning the government for not protecting the monk and Falun Gong practitioners, who all had UN refugee status. Robinson said she raised the issue during a meeting Wednes­day with co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng and “received assurances” that the minister would look into the matter.

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Tri Luc disappeared July 25 while under UN protection. The Cambodian government de­ported Falun Gong practitioners Li Guonjun and Zhang Xinyi to China on Aug 9. As she had on Wednesday, Rob­­inson criticized the government again Thursday for not properly enforcing anti-human traf­ficking laws and raised the concern with Prime Minister Hun Sen that corruption and a lack of accountability for the perpetrators of human trafficking fuel the problem.

“Compared to the neighboring countries, Cambodia has a manageable size and population and could get on top of [the trafficking] situation,” she said.

One issue the outgoing commissioner did not address during Thursday’s news conference—or her entire 40-hour visit—was the Khmer Rouge trial negotiations, which the UN pulled out of in February. On Tuesday, UN Sec­re­tary-General Kofi Annan re­leased a statement saying the UN would consider restarting the trial negotiations if the UN Security Council or UN General Assembly clearly supported it, sparking ex­pectations that Robinson might address this issue with Cambo­dian officials. She said, however, that Hun Sen did not raise this issue with her during their meeting on Wednesday. Robinson seemed to suggest that since Hun Sen did not raise the issue, she would not raise it with him.

Robinson, who met with King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath during her visit to China earlier this week refused to comment on what she discussed with the King but said he was “in good form and spirits.”

The King is in Beijing for medical care.

Robinson flew from Cambodia to East Timor, the last destination of her Asian visit.


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