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Letter: Uighurs being held in ‘Chinese Tuol Slengs’

February 12, 2010

The Phnom Penh Post (Cambodia)
February 1, 2010

Dear Editor,

I am a Tibetan-American who recently visited
Cambodia. On December 26, I visited the Tuol
Sleng Genocide Museum. The horrendous display of
the actual rooms and real instruments of torture
used by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 for
interrogation, torture and killing of prisoners
reminded me of similarly gruesome stories told by
thousands of Tibetans who escaped since China’s
total takeover in 1959. Cambodia and Tibet have
many things in common: They are predominantly
Buddhist countries, both colonised by foreign
powers, both victims of communism.

Each one lost over a million people due to man’s
inhumanity to man, the only difference being that
the tortures and killings in Cambodia were done
by its own people, the Khmer Rouge. In Tibet they
were perpetrated by the People’s Liberation Army
of China, which invaded and occupied Tibet in the early 1950s.

In the last hall of the exhibition on the third
floor of Tuol Sleng, filled with countless old
faded black-and-white photographs of prisoners,
there was a large billboard that stated in
Cambodian, French and English that the
exhibitions were dedicated to the victims who
perished during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror.

It stated: "Keeping the memory of the atrocities
committed on Cambodian soil alive is the key to
build a new, strong and just state … making the
crimes of the inhuman Khmer Rouge regime public
plays a crucial role in preventing a new Pol Pot
from emerging in the lands of Angkor or anywhere
on Earth." This was indeed a noble commitment to
principles made by a people who had suffered so much.

If only the government of Cambodia had not made a
total mockery of these principles by handing back
to China 20 Uighur refugees from the Xinjiang
region of China who, after escaping, tried to
seek political asylum in Cambodia. The Uighurs
suffer from the same colonisation, torture and
killing as Tibetans under China. The entire
affair of the Uighur asylum seekers was handled
with lightning speed .... Cambodian police
arrested the 20 Muslim dissidents on December 18,
and forcefully deported them on the night of
December 19 on a specially chartered plane bound
for an undisclosed destination in China.

Undoubtedly, they are now in some Chinese Tuol
Slengs scattered throughout China, Xinjiang,
Inner Mongolia and Tibet, where thousands of
political prisoners, including those Tibetans
arrested after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
demonstrations, are routinely tortured. The day
after the Uighurs’ deportation, the vice
president of China, Xi Jinping, arrived in Phnom
Penh. He lauded the Cambodian government for its
handling of the asylum seekers and signed some 14
economic assistance projects totalling US$1.2 billion.

On the day I visited the Angkor ruins, I had a
glimpse of smiling Cambodian officials escorting
Xi Jinping around Angkor. I could not help but
wonder if these officials were even aware of the irony of the situation.

The barbaric acts on display at the Tuol Sleng
museum in effect said "never again," but the
recent deeds of the government of Cambodia
clearly indicated that Cambodia is not only
willing to ignore its recent history but will
actively collaborate with the biggest of all Pol
Pots to perpetuate the same barbaric acts of
torture and killing, if the price is right.

Phundhon
via email

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