Police officials in Ratanakkiri province have informed villagers in O’Yadaw district that bringing Montagnard asylum-seekers into Cambodia is human trafficking, and that villagers found to have done so will be prosecuted according to the law, Chea Bun Thoeun, deputy provincial police chief said Thursday.
Police have also told villagers that they must inform authorities of any foreigners staying in their homes or villages, where Montagnards sometimes hide, Chea Bun Thoeun said.
“I and my police went to [O’Yadaw] and informed all the people about the Interior Ministry notice on management of foreigners and explained to them about the law,” he said. “Taking Montagnards into Cambodia is illegal.”
Chea Bun Thoeun alleged that some villagers have tried to lure Montagnards into Cambodia and then informed media and local rights group Adhoc, hoping they will get money from the UN.
“What [the farmers] are doing is human trafficking,” he said. “If we find they are involved in this trafficking, we will act according to the law.”
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said the announcement was made last week, adding that there are 18 Montagnards hiding in the province.
“If anyone helps Montagnards they will be imprisoned,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees did not return calls.
Chea Vannath of the Center for Social Development said she hoped the authorities would not abuse the rights of people who assist the Montagnards.
“For any accusation I hope there will be proper, due process,” she said. “I hope Adhoc or the UN will protect them in terms of providing” such a process, she added.
An official with the International Organization for Migration said it appears unlikely that Cambodia’s existing law on human trafficking could be applied.
The law “primarily applies to trafficking on sexual exploitation,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “Unless factors of deception, threats, abuse or coercion are present, it’s not trafficking.”