11 Montagnards Arrive in R’kiri, Await UNHCR

Eleven Montagnard asylum seekers have arrived from Vietnam in Ratanakkiri province’s Bokeo district and are awaiting the assistance of the UN High Commis­sioner for Refugees, according to local rights group Adhoc.

Adhoc’s Provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar said the group arrived Sunday.

“They are hiding in the forest along the border,” he said.

The group’s arrival comes on the heels of eight Montagnards who successfully traveled directly to the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh on April 10.

The group are the first Mon­tagnard asylum seekers to cross into Cambodia via the Ratanakkiri border since November. Heighten­ed border security in Vietnam in recent months had caused the drop-off, Pen Bonnar said.

“The security along the border is tight, and some of them were arrested and sent back home,” he added.

Bokeo district officials could not be reached Wednesday. However, Deputy Provincial Governor Bou Lum said he was unaware of the latest arrivals.

“I did not know about their arrival in this province. I will check with my district governors,” he said, adding that unnamed groups were inciting the Montagnards to seek refuge in Cambodia.

“If there were no incitement, they would not cross the border,” he said.

UNHCR Protection Officer Toshitsuki Kawauchi said his agency had received reports of the new Montagnard arrivals but he had to confer with Cambodian authorities before setting out to retrieve them.

“We have to confirm this information first before we request [permission] to accept them, and we will also discuss with the ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs about this,” he said.

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