Cambodia has repeated its position that it will not extradite a detained French architect linked to disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai before the case has been fully investigated.
“We are awaiting further investigation,” Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters late on Thursday when asked about Patrick Devillers, whose arrest in Phnom Penh has sparked a diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Paris.
“The decision has been made. We have decided to keep him here… We won’t send him to either France or China,” he said.
Devillers, 52, was detained on June 13 for committing unspecified offences in China, police said, adding that the arrest was made at Beijing’s request.
The arrest is the latest twist in China’s biggest political scandal in decades but Hor Namhong said he still didn’t have details about Devillers’ alleged offences.
The Frenchman, described as discreet and creative by friends in Phnom Penh, is understood to have been a close business associate and friend of Bo and his wife Gu Kailai.
Bo, the former leader of the southwestern Chinese megacity of Chongqing, is being probed for corruption while Gu has been detained for suspected involvement in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood last year.
China has huge sway in Cambodia and the countries have an extradition treaty that allows a suspect to be held for 60 days.
But after France on Wednesday warned Cambodia not to take any action without a clear legal basis, Phnom Penh said Devillers had not done anything wrong in Cambodia and would be freed unless China provided “clear evidence” of his crimes.
As the diplomatic tussle continued, a government spokesman played down suggestions that Cambodia was walking a tightrope between China, its biggest bilateral creditor and foreign investor, and France, its former colonial power.
“Cambodia is not in the hot seat,” Khieu Kanharith told AFP, adding it will abide by international extradition rules.
Devillers surprise arrest came as top Chinese leader He Guoqiang, who heads the ruling Communist Party’s internal disciplinary organ and is reportedly heading up the investigation into Bo, paid a visit to Cambodia.
It is unclear whether there is any link between the “goodwill” trip, during which multi-million dollar infrastructure deals were signed, and Devillers’ detention. -By Suy Se-