A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 28 February 2008

Cambodian leader slams UN for giving asylum to refugees without consulting government

Mr. Hun Sen and wife, Bun Rany.
The Associated Press
Published: February 28, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's prime minister slammed the U.N.'s refugee agency Thursday for using Cambodian territory to grant political asylum to foreign refugees without first consulting his government.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said the Cambodian office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has granted asylum to refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
"What right does it (UNHCR) have to use Cambodian territory to provide foreign nationals with political asylum without seeking permission from the Cambodian authorities," Hun Sen said in a speech at a development conference.
He did not say how many refugees were in Cambodia or how long they had been there. He said he ordered the foreign affairs and interior ministries to look into the issue with the UNHCR.
Toshi Kawauchi, a UNHCR protection officer, declined to comment on the issue, saying in an e-mail his office is "not in a position to discuss the numbers and other details of the refugees."
The relationship between Cambodia and the U.N. agency has been rocky in recent years, especially over the issue of refugees fleeing neighboring Vietnam.
Thousands of Vietnamese hill tribe people known as Montagnards have fled to Cambodia since 2001, when Vietnam's communist government cracked down on protests against land confiscation and restrictions on religious freedom. Many have been resettled in the United States, and a small number have voluntarily returned to Vietnam.

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