6 Montagnards In UN Custody

Six Montagnard asylum-seekers were taken into UN custody in Ra­tanakkiri province over the weekend, a human rights monitor said Sun­day.

Officials from the UN High Com­­missioner for Refugees, after re­­ceiving permission from the Min­­istry of Foreign Affairs, picked up five asylum-seekers in Pok Nhay com­mune’s Lum village in O’Yadaw district on Friday and trans­ported them to the provincial capital, Banlung. The five had avoided po­lice searches for weeks while hiding in the jungle

“They waited a long time,” Pen Bon­­nar, provincial coordinator of lo­cal rights group Adhoc, said Sun­day.

The five Montagnards, four men and one woman, had crossed the Cam­bod­ian-Vietnamese border on April 25 and remained in hiding awaiting the arrival of the UN.

Last month, about 30 police were reported to have spent 10 days searching Lum village and the surrounding area for the Mon­tag­nards without success.

“Sometimes they changed places four or five times because of po­lice,” Pen Bonnar said.

UNHCR tried to pick up a sixth Mon­tagnard who had crossed the bor­der on June 6 and was hiding in Pok­po village in the same commune but heavy rains had made it im­possible to reach the village.

“When UNHCR wanted to go see them, the stream was too high,” Pen Bonnar said.

The refugee agency returned to the area on Saturday and took the man back to Banlung.

Pen Bonnar said the six are scheduled to be flown to Phnom Penh today.

UNHCR Country Representa­tive Thamrongsak Meechubot con­­­firmed Sunday that the six had been picked up on Friday and Sat­ur­day.

There are about 600 Montag­nards currently being held in four locations in Phnom Penh.

Ratanakkiri Deputy provincial po­­lice Chief Hor Ang, who had asked vil­lagers to report the whereabouts of the Montagnards to po­lice, said Sun­day he was happy to hear the six had been escorted out of the jungle.

“We do not want to see them living in the jungle like animals,” Hor Ang said. “It is a humanitarian de­cision.”




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