- Thu, 04/01/2010 - 12:00
By Agence France-Presse
Cambodia in December deported the 20 Uighurs, members of a largely Muslim minority group in western China, even though they were seeking UN refugee status and said they would face torture if returned.
The United States, which had warned against the deportation, said it was calling off a shipment of 200 trucks and trailers under a program by which the United States provides surplus military supplies to other countries.
"They failed to heed not only our call that they step up to their international obligations but specific obligations they have as a country," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.
"We said there would be consequences, and this is a step in that direction," he said.
"This is something that I think is important to Cambodia," he said of the trucks.
But the assistance pales in comparison to aid from Beijing.
China, which had put heavy pressure on Cambodia to hand over the Uighurs, signed off on one billion dollars in assistance days after the deportation, although Beijing denied there was a link.
Exiled Uighur activists praised the US decision.
"I thank the United States for its continued attention to the situation of the Uighurs who sought asylum in Cambodia," said Omer Kanat, vice president of the World Uighur Congress.
"I urge the US and the international community to press China regarding their current whereabouts and legal situation, since Chinese authorities have refused to give any information about this since the Uighurs were deported," he said.
The State Department in its last annual human rights report said that China was stepping up cultural and political repression against Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang.
Clashes between Xinjiang's Uighurs and China's majority Han ethnic group in July left nearly 200 dead and 1,600 injured, according to official tolls.