Asylum-Seekers Reportedly Sent Back to VN

The UN High Commissioner for Ref­ugees and local rights group Ad­hoc have received reports that 52 Mon­tagnard asylum-seekers were apprehended in Ratanakkiri prov­ince and deported back to Viet­nam last week.

The announcement comes as Ad­­hoc reported that an additional 35 Mon­tagnards slipped over the bor­der and into the province on Fri­day, and are now trying to reach the UNHCR.

“Fifty-two people were sent back to Vietnam after they were arrested by local authorities, according to villagers,” Pen Bonnar, Adhoc provincial coordinator, said by telephone.

He added that the deportation re­portedly happened in O’Yadaw district late last week, within days of the 52 arriving from Vietnam.

UNHCR spokeswoman Deb­orah Backus said the organization plans to leave for Ratanakkiri to try and lo­cate the 35 within the next two weeks.

“We’re hoping it should be sooner than that. It should be in the next week but it depends when we get ap­proval from the government,” Backus said.

“We’ll also be investigating the deportation we’ve heard of,” she said, adding that the UN agency can­­not yet confirm the reports.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khi­eu Sopheak could not be con­tact­­ed, while Deputy National Po­lice Com­missioner Sok Phal said he had just returned from abroad and was not aware of the reported de­­portation.

“I know only [of Montagnards] sent back to Vietnam by UNHCR,” he said.

Yoeung Baloung, provincial po­lice chief, said he had not received any reports of a deportation, as did Moung Poy, deputy provincial governor.

New York based-Human Rights Watch has received reports of the in­cident.

“We’re concerned to continually re­ceive reports of Montagnard asylum-seekers being forced back to Viet­nam before they’ve had a chance to have their claims assess­ed by the UN,” a Rights Watch official said.

“Cambodian authorities are not on­­ly violating the Refugee Conven­tion, but also the memorandum of un­­­derstanding they signed with the UN and the Vietnamese government earlier this year,” the official add­­ed, referring to a tripartite agree­­ment signed in January that dealt with the repatriation of Montag­nards.


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