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Saturday, January 16, 2010

US Senator Jim Webb makes quick stop in Cambodia on Asian tour

Phnom Penh - US Senator Jim Webb made a lightning visit to Cambodia on Tuesday as part of a regional trip designed to 'invigorate the relationship' between the United States and..

Phnom Penh - US Senator Jim Webb made a lightning visit to Cambodia on Tuesday as part of a regional trip designed to 'invigorate the relationship' between the United States and South-East Asian nations. Webb is in the region in his capacity as chairman of the Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs for the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee.

His trip takes in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. At a press conference in Phnom Penh on Tuesday ahead of a scheduled meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Webb was asked about the ongoing crackdown by the Cambodian government against its opponents. The question followed a strong European Union statement issued earlier in August in which the EU warned that the government's actions could narrow Cambodia's democratic space.

Webb would not be drawn on whether or how the US would exert pressure on Phnom Penh to respect democratic rights, saying only that the US wants to do 'what we can to encourage political diversity in Cambodia.' 'As a part of my visit here I met with the leaders of two of the opposition groups to hear their views, and we had [a] discussion with respect to the issues that you mentioned, and we will continue to listen to people from all sides,' Webb said. 'I listened in great detail to the concerns of the two opposition leaders on that topic.' He was more forthcoming on the Trade Act of 2009, a measure introduced by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein to provide duty-free access to the US market for garments made in 14 least-developed countries.

Cambodia, whose economically vital garment industry has been battered over the past year, would benefit from the passage of the bill. However the legislation is currently languishing in the US Senate. 'That issue was the subject of a pretty lengthy discussion with the minister of commerce, and I committed to him that we'll take a very close look at the legislation,' Webb said. Webb said one key concern is that labour standards in beneficiary countries should meet international standards.

'It's very important to the Democratic Party in the United States to make sure we have a fair playing field among our workers and workers overseas,' he explained. 'That being said, the minister made a very compelling case for us to look at that legislation and we will do that when we get back.' Webb leaves Cambodia later on Tuesday headed to Vietnam.

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U.N. special rapporteur to make second visit to Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, A special rapporteur of the United Nations is planned to make his second visit to Cambodia next week, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Saturday.

In a statement released on Saturday, the OHCHR said Surya Prasad Subedi, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, will visit Cambodia on Jan. 18-30.

This is his second mission to Cambodia. "He intends to use the visit to examine the functioning of the National Assembly and judiciary, including the Supreme Council of Magistracy and the Constitutional Council," the statement said.

His objective is to conduct an analysis of how these institutions work, and the extent to which they provide citizens recourse and remedy for breaches of their rights.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to follow and report on the human rights situation in Cambodia.

His task is to assess the human rights situation, report publicly about it, and work with the Government, civil society and others to foster international cooperation in this field.
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Stop repatriation of refugees in Thailand, Cambodia

More than five dozen civil society groups in the region have released a joint statement calling for the principle of non-refoulement to be upheld and for an end to the recent forced deportations of the Uighurs from Cambodia and the Lao Hmong from Thailand.

We, the undersigned, condemn the actions in the last days of 2009 of some Asian governments in requesting, encouraging and performing the forcible deportation (refoulement) of refugees and asylum seekers from Cambodia and Thailand.

We demand that all governments in the Asia-Pacific region reaffirm the importance of the principle of non-refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees.

We further call on these governments and all governments in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve to make 2010 a year in which the basic rights of refugees and asylum seekers are recognised, including the fundamental principle of non-refoulement.

Uighurs from Cambodia

On 19 December 2009, in advance of a visit by Vice President Xi Jinping of China, the government of Cambodia forcibly repatriated 20 ethnic Uighur asylum seekers to China, before their claims for asylum had been fully examined. The forced repatriation occurred despite the protests of the international community, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and civil society. Cambodia is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have reported that Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority, predominantly Muslim and living mostly in western China, are facing various forms of mistreatment and persecution which has intensified since the crackdown by the Chinese government that followed the July 2009 riots in Urumqi.

China thanked the Cambodian government for the forced repatriation and two days later signed 14 commercial deals with Cambodia worth approximately US$1 billion.

Amnesty International has documented past cases of Uighur asylum seekers forcibly returned to China who were detained, reportedly tortured and, in some cases, sentenced to death and executed.

Lao Hmong from Thailand

On 28 December 2009, the government of Thailand forcibly repatriated to Laos about 4,000 Lao Hmong from Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun as well as 158 Lao Hmong detained in the Nong Khai Immigration Detention Centre since November 2006. Amongst them were 87 children, some born in detention. The 158 Lao Hmong were recognised by the UNHCR as being in need of international protection; they had already been accepted for resettlement by several countries but had been denied departure from Thailand. The UNHCR was not permitted access to the larger group in Huay Nam Khao camp in Phetchabun to determine their status.

In a statement dated 31 December 2009 protesting these deportations, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, stated, “the fact that no independent and reliable pre-screening mechanism is in place to assess whether these individuals would be at risk of torture violates international human rights norms.” This statement was jointly released with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants, Jorge A. Bustamante,

Until now, no NGO or UN agencies have been granted access to monitor the deportees back in Laos.

In recent years, forcibly repatriated Lao Hmong have been subject to disappearance, imprisonment, forced re-education, and physical and sexual assault. The Hmong population has been subject to persecution by Lao authorities, including arbitrary arrests and detention, and the suppression of religious freedom.

Principle of non-refoulement

We remind the governments of China, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand and other governments in the Asia-Pacific region that under international law, the forcible deportation (refoulement) of an individual to a place where they will be exposed to a real risk of serious harm is absolutely forbidden under both customary international law and under the treaty provisions of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

We also remind these governments that under the terms of the Charter of the United Nations, the Statute of the UNHCR and the terms of the memoranda of agreement that they have signed with the the UNHCR that they are bound to cooperate with it and to facilitate its efforts to ensure access and the protection of refugees.

We recall the numerous Conclusions on International Protection of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR, of which the governments of China and Thailand are members, which call on states to “scrupulously respect the principle of non-refoulement”. We further recall that the Executive Committee adopted these conclusions by consent and that the governments of China and Thailand have on multiple occasions agreed to abide by them.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, call on the following governments to take the following specific actions:

The government of Cambodia:

To recognise the right to seek asylum of all Uighur asylum seekers;
To cease their refoulement before a proper determination of their status; and
To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The government of China:

To provide the UNHCR with access to forcibly repatriated Uighur asylum seekers;
To cease making demands of other Asian states to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers; and
To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, as well as the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The government of Thailand:

To recognise the right to seek asylum of all Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers;
To cease the refoulement of the Lao Hmong;
To issue exit permits to those Lao Hmong who have been accepted for resettlement in third countries; and
To abide by their obligations as a state party to the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The government of Laos:

To provide the UNHCR access to forcibly repatriated Lao Hmong;
To cease making demands of other Asian states to forcibly repatriate asylum seekers;
To make all necessary arrangements for those individuals who had already been accepted for resettlement in a third country prior to their return to Laos to be expeditiously processed and depart from Laos.

All governments in the Asia-Pacific region:

To respect the fundamental principle of non-refoulement;
To cease requesting, condoning, cooperating with, carrying out or otherwise allowing the refoulement of asylum seekers and refugees, and
To respect the principle that the granting of asylum is a peaceful and humanitarian act and should not be regarded as an unfriendly act by any state.
We call on all governments in the Asia-Pacific region to resolve to fully respect the rights of all refugees and asylum seekers under international law as of 2010, including by renouncing the practice of refoulement.

(Released: 14 January 2010)

This statement was written by members of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and has been endorsed by the following organisations:

1. Amnesty International Australia
2. Australian National Committee on Refugee Women
3. Centre for Refugee Research
4. Refugee Council of Australia
5. Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service of South Australia

6. Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK)
7. Odhikar
8. Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP)

9. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
10. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
11. Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association (KKKHRA)
12. The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)

13. Canadian Council for Refugees
14. Fellowship Christian Reformed Church Refugee Committee
15. Quaker Committee for Refugees

16. Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights

Hong Kong
17. Amnesty International Hong Kong
18. Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre

19. Human Rights Working Group - Indonesia
20. Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Jakarta (The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute)

21. Amnesty International Japan

22. Frontiers Ruwad Association

23. Aliran Kesedaran Negara
24. Amnesty International Malaysia
25. Bar Council of Malaysia
26. Health Equity Initiatives
27. Kumpulan ACTS Berhad
28. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
29. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
30. The National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)

31. INHURED International

New Zealand
32. Amnesty International New Zealand
33. New Zealand National Refugee Network

34. Pakistan International Human Rights Organization

35. Amnesty International Philippines
36. Centre for Migrant Advocacy

South Africa
37. Lawyers for Human Rights

South Korea
38. Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group (GONGGAM)
39. Korean House for International Solidarity

Sri Lanka
40. South Asian Network for Refugees, IDPs & Migrants, Sri Lanka (SANRIM)

41. Tibetan UN Advocacy (TUNA)

42. Taiwan Association for Human Rights

43. Amnesty International Thailand
44. US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants – Thailand

45. Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Refugee Advocacy and Support Program

United Kingdom
46. Christian Solidarity Worldwide
47. The Equal Rights Trust

United States of America
48. Citizens Against Trafficking
49. Defense Forum Foundation
50.Jubilee Campaign

51. Advocates International
52. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
53. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
54. Borneo Child Aid Society/ Humana
55. Caram Asia
56. Chin Human Rights Organization
57. Christian Solidarity Worldwide - Southeast Asia
58. Committee for Asian Women
59. ESCR-Asia
60. Fahamu Refugee Programme, Fahamu Trust
61. Forum Asia
62. Human Rights Without Frontiers
63. International Detention Coalition
64. International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
65.Pax Romana
66. The Arakan Project
67. UNANIMA International
68. Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
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Asians to watch

MANILA, Philippines—The Year of the White Tiger is said to be characterized by conflict and significant changes. As the world steps right into the new year, AsiaNews listed personalities from politics to business who deserve attention this year.

Who among them will create conflict or bring about change?

AsiaNews is the newsmagazine of Asia News Network, a group of 21 newspapers, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in 18 countries.

Because of limited space, Talk of the Town cannot feature the others listed by AsiaNews.

They are opposition leader Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, former Prime Minister Puhspa Kamal Dahal of Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad of Laos, Kim Jong-eun of North Korea, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia, Finance Secretary Sri Mulyani of Indonesia, Chief Justice Sonam Tobgye of Bhutan, lawyer Kyi Win of Burma, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, the third generation offspring of Korea’s chaebol founders and businessman Tsai Eng Meng of Taiwan.

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