Four villagers and a police officer in Mondolkiri province have requested protection from human rights workers after they were reportedly intimidated for assisting Montagnard asylum-seekers from Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Chan Soveth, a member of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee—an umbrella organization of 17 local rights groups—said the five were accused of helping Montagnards and providing information to the UN refugee agency.
“They were threatened by local authorities…. They are accused of hiding Montagnards and helping them stay in Cambodian territory,” Chan Soveth said.
One of the five men, a local police officer, has been targeted since helping translate ethnic minority languages for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has escorted some 20 Montagnard asylum-seekers to Phnom Penh since Oct 4 after emerging in the province, Chan Soveth said.
“Provincial officials warned him to stop his actions in helping the organization. If he still works for the organization he will not be safe,” Chan Soveth said.
Two of the five men have been taken to a safe location, while local authorities were asked to protect the remaining three who returned home despite reports that armed police have been patrolling their villages.
Reach Samnang, Mondolkiri police chief, denied on Sunday that armed officers were mounting patrols and said the claims of intimidation were a ploy by those seeking UN asylum.
“The people make these accusations because they want to get asylum in the third country. But they are not Montagnards, they are Cambodian people,” he said.
Mondolkiri third deputy governor Nha Raing Chan also said Sunday the police officer was not warned for working with the UN but for not attending his official work. The UNHCR placed almost 350 Montagnards under protection during three operations in neighboring Ratanakkiri province between July and September.