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.”