Southeast Asian foreign ministers have failed to hammer out a joint position summarizing key regional meetings. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations stumbled over how to describe the simmering dispute in the South Chin Sea. The unprecedented impasse has left some officials pointing a finger at chair Cambodia. It also raises questions about the cohesiveness of ASEAN members, China's growing influence in the region and the possibility of a rift within the 10-member bloc.
Cambodian authorities assured the United States’ ambassador to the country that it would abide by international refugee protocols, just two days before it broke its obligations and deported a group of Uighur asylum-seekers to an uncertain future in China, according to documents leaked by the anti-secrecy group Wikileaks.
Details of Cambodia’s sudden U-turn, and the worried backroom consultations among the US Embassy, United Nations and Cambodian officials that preceded it, are contained in a series of diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks this month.
The classified documents highlight how the US and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, were caught flat-footed in countering China’s influence in the lead-up to the controversial December 2009 deportation. And, say human rights observers, the cables cast a troubling spotlight on China’s ability to export its human rights agenda to developing countries like Cambodia.