Eight Cambodian nationals studying in Yemen remained trapped in the capital of Sanaa on Monday as sectarian violence continued to consume the country, officials said.
Sman Manan, the soon-to-be Cambodian ambassador to Kuwait, where the Cambodian Embassy is attempting to evacuate the Cham Muslim students from Yemen, said the embassy had been in contact with the eight by telephone.
Mr. Manan said all eight students had arrived in Yemen separately after studying in Malaysia and were now staying together in Sanaa.
“They cannot move from the city because of the fighting,” he said. “They are afraid. They also hope and pray the situation will be better.”
Over the past six months, the Houthis, a Shiite minority in Yemen, have seized control of much of the country’s north, including Sanaa, and are now expanding their campaign to the south.
The U.N. said in a statement last week that more than 500 people had been killed and 1,700 injured in the country in the previous two weeks. Late last month, a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia began airstrikes against Houthi positions in Sanaa and elsewhere in the country.
Mr. Manan said the Cambodian Embassy in Kuwait was in talks with the Saudi government to figure out how to get the students to the border and into Saudi Arabia, where they could fly to the United Arab Emirates and then home to Cambodia.
“We are trying to find a way and find how we can bring them back,” he said. “First we need to figure out how to bring them to Saudi Arabia.”
According to Mr. Manan, there are more Cambodian students in Yemen, but most are outside urban areas and far from the fiercest fighting.
“I’m still trying to get information to find how many Cambodian students there are,” he said. “They stay in different provinces.”
Sos Mousine, a vice president of the Cambodian Muslim Development Foundation (CMDF), said his organization had also been trying to coordinate the students’ safe passage out of Yemen.
He said CMDF had been communicating by email with the students, who said that, as Sunnis, they were concerned that Houthi supporters might target them.
“The problem is they are foreigners,” Mr. Mousine said. “And if they know they are students and Sunnis, maybe they will shoot them.”
Mr. Mousine, who is also a secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religion, said CMDF estimates that there are more than 20 Cambodian students in Yemen, but that only the eight are in immediate danger.
“We told them they have to move away from the conflict area and then they have to find friends to help them” get out of the country, he said, adding that the students had been studying Arabic and Islam.
Ros Salin, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, said his ministry was working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to confirm the identities of the students.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment.
(Additional reporting by Khuon Narim)