London, Dec. 20 (ANI): Twenty Muslim Uighurs, who were seeking refuge in Cambodia after fleeing the deadly ethnic riots in China, are likely to be deported back to China, a move the UN fears will lead to their harassment in that country.
The Scotsman quoted Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman, Koy Kuong, as saying that the 20 Uighurs would be expelled after it was decided by the Cambodian authorities they had entered the country illegally.
The United States and United Nations urged Cambodia to halt the deportations.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said it had not finished evaluating the Uighurs, including two children, for refugee status.
Cambodia has been under intense pressure from China, which has called the ethnic Uighurs criminals after they fled with the help of a secret network of missionaries.
Interior ministry spokesman Lt Gen Khieu Sopheak said the Uighurs would be expelled this week.
"I can't say where they will be sent, but I assume their final destination will be China, where they come from," he said.
Some countries have refused to send Uighurs - such as ones released from US detention at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba - back to China over concerns about retribution.
Tensions between majority Han Chinese and the Turkic Uighurs in their traditional homeland of far western China exploded into rioting in July, the country's worst communal violence in decades.
The Chinese government says nearly 200 people, mostly majority Han Chinese, died.
Uighurs say Beijing has long restricted their rights. Amnesty International warned in an open letter last week that the Uighurs would be "vulnerable to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," if returned to China. (ANI)