By Simon Lewis and Aun Pheap
July 2, 2013
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
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
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.