A local governor in Mondolkiri province guaranteed the safety of two people living in his district after they were reportedly intimidated for assisting Montagnard asylum-seekers, a human rights official said Tuesday.
Four villagers and a policeman in Mondolkiri have requested protection from local rights workers over the past month, claiming they were accused of assisting asylum-seekers from Vietnam’s Central Highlands and threatened by local authorities.
Sam Sarin, Mondolkiri investigator for the rights group Adhoc, which sheltered three of the men, said Adhoc officials spoke Sunday with the governor of O’Reang district, where two of the villagers seeking protection reside.
“Ngam Peng, O’Reang district governor, asked that his two villagers return home, and he guaranteed their safety,” Sam Sarin said. “He promised he would send a letter to police and ask them not to disturb or intimidate them.”
The villagers returned home the same day, Sam Sarin said.
Two other men have been taken to an undisclosed location for safety reasons, while the policeman, who reportedly helped translate ethnic minority languages for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees as they escorted Montagnards to Phnom Penh, remains under the protection of Mondolkiri’s Adhoc office.
More than 10 people who have passed on information about the asylum-seekers have been living in fear while police search their farms and ask villagers for information on the Montagnards, Sam Sarin said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, human rights officials have received reports that another 40 Montagnards reached the jungles of Mondolkiri on Sunday, while more than 150 asylum-seekers crossed into Ratanakkiri province and are now hiding in the forests along the border.
“They do not dare to appear in villages because they are worried of being arrested by police,” a rights official said.
Mondolkiri province police Chief Reach Samnang said Tuesday he was unaware of the latest group of Montagnards, but said their fears are unwarranted. “We do not arrest them now,” he said.
With the government’s cooperation, the UNHCR transported 52 more Montagnards to Phnom Penh from Ratanakkiri this week.
on Sunday and Monday, bringing the number of Montagnards now under UNHCR protection in the capital to more than 400.