Two dozen Vietnamese arrested in Mondolkiri last week for illegally entering Cambodia were flown to Phnom Penh Saturday on orders of Prime Minister Hun Sen, but it is still unclear what will happen to them.
Director General of National Police Hok Lundy, who went to Mondolkiri to take charge of the case, said the 24 are members of Free Vietnam, a resistance group opposed to the Hanoi government.
“They might be punished for illegally crossing into Cambodia, and they are an illegally armed force,” Hok Lundy said.
He said he did not know if the 24 will be sent back to Vietnam.
Members of the group, reported to be part of ethnic communities in Vietnam’s central highlands, told Mondolkiri officials that they fled Vietnam following Hanoi’s crackdown on hill tribes.
Arrested in Mondolkiri on March 17 and March 22, they were first believed to be members of the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races.
One gun was discovered with the group when they were arrested, but authorities believe they hid many weapons along the border before they were detained, Hok Lundy said.
The 23 men and one woman, brought to Phnom Penh in two military helicopters, are being held at the military police headquarters in Phnom Penh, said General Sao Sokha, national commander for operations.
“We are currently waiting for the high government [of Cambodia] to decide their fate,” he said.
Sao Sokha said for people who are involved in a crime in their country, the country where they were arrested has a duty to return them to their native country under an Asean pact. He could not comment on whether the 24 have asked for asylum.
You Hockry, co-Minister of Interior, said the government will discuss today how to deal with the group.
In the past, members of the Free Vietnam movement who were arrested for their activities on Cambodia soil were immediately deported to Vietnam.
The UN High Commission for Refugees is currently following this case, said a representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the UNHCR has not spoken to any of the detainees, but added that the office will try to contact them.
Amnesty International petitioned the Cambodian government Saturday not to return the detainees, whom Amnesty said were fleeing persecution in Vietnam.