33 More Montagnards Emerge From Jungle

Thirty-three Montagnard asylum-seekers emerged from the jung­le into the protection of the UN refugee agency on Tuesday in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Ya­daw district, said a UN High Com­missioner for Refugees official.

The latest group, which came from Vietnam’s Gia Lai province, brought the total number of Mon­tag­nards who have emerged from hiding in the thick northeast jungles since July to 315. Most fled Vietnam after authorities res­ponded harshly to massive Mon­tag­nard protests in April for land rights and religious freedom.

“Healthwise, they are ok,” said Chung Ravuth, a UNHCR protection officer, after officials brought the asylum-seekers back from O’Yadaw’s Pok Por village to Ban­lung, the provincial capital.

“We don’t know too many de­tails yet,” he added. “Right now, we just want them to rest.”

The UNHCR may return to O’Yadaw today to search for more asylum-seekers, Chung Ra­vuth said, but no plans were confirmed. The UNHCR has information that about 60 more Mon­tag­nards are hiding in the pro­vince.

Meanwhile, senior government of­ficials were back from Vietnam on Tuesday, a day after they at­ten­ded a meeting with their Viet­namese counterparts on “devel­op­ment cooperation” between bor­der provinces.

Several high-profile Cambodian at­tendees at the meeting, including co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, National Police Chief Hok Lundy and Prum Sokha, secretary of state at the Interior Ministry, did not answer phone calls placed Tuesday.

According to the Vietnam News Agency, the two sides “shared a view to work closely with each other on border management in an effort to stop illegal bor­der crossing as well as trans­national crime and terrorism along the two countries’ border.”

“The two sides also reaffirmed their unswerving positions of not let­ting hostile forces use their territories as springboards to oppose the other country,” VNA reported.

In July, before the government had let the UNHCR access Ra­ta­nak­kiri, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to use the military to eradicate alleged Montagnard mil­itants. But in the past two months, the government has not found any armed Montagnard separatists hiding in the border areas.

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