Montagnard Asylum Seeker Kills Himself

A Montagnard asylum seeker was found dead on Wednesday morning in a Phnom Penh residence provided by the U.N.’s refugee agency, having committed suicide in his room, according to police.

The man, one of almost 200 Vietnamese asylum seekers waiting to have their claims processed in Phnom Penh, was found at 11 a.m. by another resident of the house in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune, said commune police chief Theng Kosal.

“We asked the people who lived there, and they said that he committed suicide because he always felt unhappy that he was sick very often with things like headaches and colds and such, but we don’t know exactly what diseases he had,” Mr. Kosal said.

“After doing an autopsy, we concluded that he really killed himself by hanging, using a rope. Nobody killed or beat him or did any other form of crime and so there is no need for an investigation,” he said.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the man was 41, suffered from severe stomach and intestinal problems, and had lived in the house since August.

Vivian Tan, regional press officer for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, confirmed the death.

“We’re aware of this unfortunate development and are trying to find out more,” she said in an email.

Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Phnom Penh, which has been providing services to the Montagnards, also confirmed the death.

“It is a tragedy that someone of such a young age would have given up hope, and that is all I will say on the matter,” she said.

In January, the government announced that a group of 171 Montagnards would have their asylum claims assessed by the Ministry of Interior. However, less than a month later, a ministry spokesman said they had all failed the interview process and would be deported to Vietnam.

The U.N. and human rights groups have urged the government to do a full review of the asylum claims of the group, some of whom have now been essentially stranded in Cambodia for nearly a year and a half.

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