15 More Montagnards Flee to Mondolkiri

Fifteen Montagnards arrived Sunday and Monday at Mondol­kiri province’s camp for hill tribe asylum seekers, bringing the number of men, women and children in the small tent village to 192 and the total number of Montagnards in Cambodia under UN protection to just under 250.

The latest arrivals—all single men—came primarily from Viet­nam’s Dak Lak province, according to sources at the camp. They appear healthy and are waiting to be interviewed by staff from the UN High Commissioner for Re­fu­gees, who will try to determine why they left Vietnam’s Central High­­lands. Those already in Mon­dolkiri claim to have fled un­rest in the Cen­tral Highlands and a subsequent crackdown by Viet­namese auth­orities. Many said the Hanoi government suppressed their mostly Christian re­li­­gious beliefs. Others say travel bans blocked them from farming.

Since the Vietnamese government quelled protests in the Cen­tral Highlands earlier this year, dozens of Montagnards have trick­led into Cambodia. A second group of approximately 50 hill tribe asylum seekers is being housed in the Ratanakkiri prov­ince capital of Banlung.

Earlier, whole families were plucked from jungle hiding places by the UNHCR, but arri­vals in recent weeks appear to all be single young men who traveled on foot to Cambodia.

Al­ready, at least 24 Mon­tagnards have been resettled in the US, though both diplomats and UNHCR officials say voluntary re­patriation is the eventual goal for the Montagnards re­main­ing in Cambodia.

Despite claims of continued repression in the Central High­lands, restrictions have reportedly been eased, according to both recent travelers and Chu Dong Loc, the Vietnamese Embassy’s press attaché in Phnom Penh. “The situation is normal,” Chu Dong Loc said Tuesday.



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