The United Nations refugee agency has protested to Cambodian authorities about the deportation of two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners and the disappearance of a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. The agency says the deportation and disappearance violate international refugee law.

UNHCR says the two Chinese Falun Gong practitioners were arrested in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, on August 2. The agency says the arrest and deportation of the couple followed what it calls the mysterious disappearance from Phnom Penh of a Buddhist monk from Vietnam.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says the refugee agency is concerned. "We have now protested to the Cambodian government in Phnom Penh and to the Cambodian mission here in Geneva, demanding clarification on what has happened to these people and reminding Cambodia of its obligation under international refugee law in the 1951 convention," said Mr. Janowski.

The spokesman said the UNHCR examined claims for asylum by the three people and found them to be genuine refugees. He says this means that they are entitled to international protection. And he says the Cambodian government violated international law if, as is believed, it deported the Falun Gong practitioners to China and the Buddhist monk to Vietnam.

"The Cambodian government is ultimately responsible for the safety and security of these people," said Mr. Janowski. "It is also responsible for making sure that these people are not shipped back to a place where they could face persecution. And in this case, it seems to have happened."

The UNHCR spokesman says the agency views these cases with great seriousness and expects an explanation from the Cambodian authorities.