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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Uighurs using missionary railway to flee China

By ISOLDA MORILLO and CARA ANNA
Associated Press Writers

BEIJING (AP) -- An underground network of Christian missionaries that usually works with North Korean refugees says it has helped smuggle nearly two dozen Muslim Uighurs out of China following last summer's deadly ethnic violence and the subsequent government crackdown.

It's the first time the Christian interfaith network has worked with a group of Uighurs, and it won't be the last, with more currently using the so-called underground railway to make their way out of the country and requests for assistance surging into the hundreds, missionaries said.

Long-simmering tensions between Turkic Uighurs and China's Han majority have increased since July's riots in the western region of Xinjiang. The Chinese government says the violence left nearly 200 people, mostly Han, dead.

A Chinese court sentenced three Uighurs to death Friday for their actions during the rioting, bringing to 17 the number of death sentences handed down over the violence. Overseas Uighur groups say Uighurs have been rounded up in mass detentions since the riots.

Some have turned to the "railway" for help, and one Macau-based missionary who is part of the network said they now have daily contact with major Uighur exile groups.

The network of sympathetic Chinese Christians shelter and guide people, usually North Koreans, as they cross China on their way to UN refugee offices abroad to seek asylum.

The first group of 22 Uighurs, who've been described by exile groups as witnesses to the rioting, made their way through China and Vietnam before arriving over the past few weeks in the Cambodian capital, where they have made contact with the UN refugee office and applied for political asylum.

However, they live in fear of being picked up and returned to China, which has close ties with Cambodia, Uighur groups said.

"China has a very big influence in Cambodia. So their life is in risk, I would say," said Ilshat Hassan, the U.S.-based director of interior affairs for the World Uyghur Congress.

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry asked that questions about the 22 Uighurs be sent in a fax, and offered no immediate response Friday. The Public Security Bureau in Xinjiang did not immediately respond to a faxed request.

Hassan said the group is the first large one to leave China after the riots. Two other Uighurs were arrested in Vietnam, he said, and he lost contact with another group of four.

A spokesman for Cambodia's Ministry of the Interior, Pol. Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, said Friday that at least 16 Uighurs are staying at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Phnom Penh. The office is the closest UNHCR office to China in Southeast Asia.

UNHCR's spokeswoman for Asia, Kitty McKinsey, said she could not discuss the case. "It's our policy everywhere in the world never to speak about individual asylum seekers or refugees," she said.

Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the government would consider carefully any repatriation request from China. He said Cambodia has the right to deny such a request if the people are considered political asylum seekers.

"But if they are purely criminal people and there is a request, we may deport them," he said.

It was unclear what role, if any, the 22 Uighurs played in the rioting. They could not be reached for comment Friday.

"They may have been involved in the protest July 5, but it is not clear at the moment," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress.

Radio Free Asia reported Friday that two of the Uighurs told the UNHCR they watched the July violence unfold. One said he feared retribution for taking photos.

Hassan said the Uighurs still have photos of the riots and government response, but there were no immediate plans to make them public. "We want to get them first to a safe place," he said.

Overseas Uighur groups have been making more and more requests to use the railway, said the Rev. Marcus Ramsey of the Macau Interfaith Network, whose group collaborates with other missionary groups and helped the 22 Uighurs leave China.

Another Macau-based missionary, who didn't want to give his name because of concerns about official retribution, said the network had a few requests for help from Europe-based Uighur Christians before the July violence, but requests have since surged.

He dismissed the idea of possible tensions between the Muslim Uighurs and the Christian Chinese who help them cross China.

"This is what it means when they ask, 'What would Jesus do?'" he said.

Hassan did not want to talk about any involvement with the missionary network, saying only "some locals from the China side helped."

Now, however, China has tightened border controls and passing through Vietnam is no longer possible, he said.

The missionaries sounded more optimistic. "The first group took two months," the Macau-based missionary said, "but some things can be streamlined next year."

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Associated Press Writers Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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Cambodia opens road building link to Thailand

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen opened Saturday a road building link to the Thai border in northwestern Cambodia.

The 117-kilometer long National Road No. 68, which runs from Kralanh district in Siem Reap province to O' Smach in Udor Meanchey province, will be completed in two years time.

Hun Sen said the construction and restoration of the road which costs 33 million U.S. dollars will be fully financed by the Royal Government of Cambodia to respond to the people's actual needs, in spite of the current global financial and economic crisis.

Thailand signed an agreement with Cambodia in August this year to provide loans amounting to some 41 million U.S. dollars for building this road, but Cambodia canceled it late last month, and instead used its own funding.

Hun Sen said he had identified the area as an economic pole, among Cambodia's other poles, as it is favorable for agriculture and tourism development.

"Thus, after the construction of the National Road No. 68 has been completed, this area will become an important and real economic pole in Cambodia," Hun Sen said.

He added that his government is firmly committed to the restoration and development of all sectors, especially the restoration, maintenance and development of transportation infrastructure which is the prioritized policy of his new fourth-term government beginning from 2008 through 2013.

He said the efforts in building infrastructure apply to Cambodia's slogan that says "wherever there is road there will be hope."

He added that this road network is located on two main corridors that serve both national and international transport purpose from western to eastern part.

The first corridor is the northern sub-corridor of the first southern corridor of the Greater Mekong Sub-region which runs through Laos and heads to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
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Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to sign agreements

The strangest friendship in the world is the friendship between Cambodia and Yuon Hanoi. The Yuon Hanoi always need more and more deepen tie and cooperation that allowing Yuo Hanoi to grabbed more land, natural resources and freeway for Yuon people encroaching in Cambodia.
Phnom Penh, Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to soon sign a number of agreements to further deepen their ties for the benefit of their people.

The agreements cover maritime transportation, cooperation in industry, mining and energy, criminal extradition, labour cooperation and legal support.

The accords were reached at the 11th meeting of the Vietnam-Cambodia Joint Committee for Economic, Cultural, and Scientific and Technological Cooperation in Cambodia’s Preah Sihanouk province on December 3-4.

Under the co-chairmanship of Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Nam Hong, the officials also agreed to soon address changes in visa exemptions for holders of ordinary passports.

Additionally, they unanimously agreed to boost cooperation, help each other in developing human resources, and to facilitate trade and investment.

They reaffirmed that the two countries will work harder to raise bilateral trade to 2 billion USD in 2010.

The officials pledged to encourage businesspeople to enhance ties, deploy licensed projects more effectively, and expand investment in the areas of oil and gas production, mining, energy, telecommunications, aviation, finance, banking, crop cultivation, farm produce processing, fertilizer and animal feed production.

They vowed to boost cooperation in agriculture, transport and communication infrastructure development, healthcare, labour issues, culture, sports and physical training, and tourism in addition to speeding up border demarcation so as to complete the work prior to the end of 2012 as previously agreed.

At this meeting, pledges were made for pressing ahead with collaboration in security and defence and the fight against cross-border crimes and coordination within sub-regional cooperation frameworks.

Reviewing the results of the implementation of the agreements reached at the committee’s 10th meeting, Vietnamese and Cambodian officials said they were delighted with the development of their comprehensive ties, notably in economy, trade and investment.

The two countries’ defence and security cooperation has been intensified; security and stability in their shared border areas have been maintained, border demarcation and marker planting have been stepped up, and more attention has been paid to cooperation among localities, ministries and sectors, they noted.

The Joint Committee will convene its 12th meeting in Vietnam .

During his time in Cambodia , Khiem paid a courtesy visit to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and paid tribute to fallen Vietnamese volunteers in Cambodia at a monument in Preah Sihanouk province. (VNA)

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Gen Chavalit confident Thai jailed in Cambodia to be freed next week

A Siame spy is in Khmer Hell, The Siame government had been in panic for releasing. But those fool politicians forgot about how many Khmers were jailed and killed in Thailand that had never been solved with justice. In this case, the Cambodian government should make a deal if the Thai government want the Siame spy back.

BANGKOK, Dec 5 (TNA) – The head of Thailand’s opposition, Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, chairman of the opposition Puea Thai Party, said Saturday he is confident that the Thai engineer detained in Cambodia on spying charges will be freed after appearing at his first hearing next week.

Reiterating that his political party is not playing ‘political games’ as suggested by some critics, Gen Chavalit, a former prime minister, said Simarak Na Nakhon Panom, mother of jailed Thai national Siwarak Chutipong, believed that a trial would take a long time if a bail request is made.

The employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) was arrested by Cambodian police nearly a month ago on charges of passing information on the flight details of fugitive, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Thai diplomats in Phnom Penh.

Mrs Simarak said she had decided to cancel her bail request plan as her son's new lawyer advised that the request will delay the case.

The mother also believes that if the Cambodian court finds her son guilty it would be better to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king and assistance is given by that government, Gen Chavalit said.

As Mr Siwarak will appear in court for his first hearing on Tuesday, Gen Chavalit said he is optimistic that there should be a “good news on December 9 or 10” and that the man should be released.

Criticism that the Puea Thai Party was behind the scene in the case as it has obtained a lot of information about the case, he said it would be bad if people’s hardships are being used as political ploy.

Gen Chavalit said his party is working behind the scene to help Thailand’s government agencies in helping secure the release of the man. (TNA)

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