Cambodia disclosed Tuesday that it will deport to China 49 Taiwanese suspected of involvement in an Internet extortion ring, saying Phnom Penh was compelled to take the action because it has no diplomatic relations with Taipei.
In a move sure to enrage Taiwan, Ministry of the Interior Spokesman Kheu Sopheak said Cambodia is making arrangements for the group, arrested Friday in a raid on their operations in Phnom Penh, to fly to China in line with the country’s policy of maintaining relations only with China.
“The Ministry of the Interior is working on an urgent measure to expel the 49 Taiwanese on a special flight to China, not to Taiwan, because of the government’s One-China policy,” he said, referring to the policy that supports China’s sovereignty over Taiwan.
“The government recognizes only one China,” he said.
In the Friday raid on three districts in the city, police confiscated computers, headphones, and other equipment that they said the group had used to call and extort money from victims in Taiwan from their base in Phnom Penh.
The suspects, whom authorities said had entered the country illegally, are currently being held at the immigration department awaiting deportation.
The arrests are the third round of a crackdown on the same online scam operation, after authorities deported a group of 55 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals in September to face charges in China.
A few months earlier, authorities had rounded up 187 Taiwanese related to online scams in Sihanoukville, Svay Rieng, and Phnom Penh.
Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the recent crackdown on what he called an international crime syndicate was a success for the country.
“Cambodia is not a haven for mafia to commit crimes. Cambodian authorities are just as capable as other authorities. We have worked to destroy this mafia network,” he said, adding that authorities are looking to make more arrests.
Cambodia, China, and Taiwan
China, which has cultivated close economic ties with Cambodia and is its top investor, claims sovereignty over the island of Taiwan and encourages other nations not to recognize it as a country.
China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the civil war with the Communists in 1949.
Beijing maintains that Taiwan is simply a renegade Chinese province which has no right to seek independence, and it has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Cambodia severed formal relations with Taiwan in 1997, when Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the closure of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Phnom Penh, shortly after he took power.
Despite supporting the One-China policy, Cambodia has maintained trade relations with Taiwan.
In February 2011, the Philippines outraged Taipei when it deported to China 14 Taiwanese nationals, along with ten Chinese nationals, over their suspected involvement in a fraud ring. Taiwan retaliated with tightened immigration policies on Filipinos working in their country.
Reported by Sok Serey for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.