Cambodian officials were tight-lipped Tuesday following a meeting at the Ministry of Interior with Vietnam’s Minister for Public Security to discuss plans to stem illegal immigration.
Although a participant acknowledged that the situation of some 320 Montagnard asylum seekers in Mondolkiri province came up in a discussion with General Le Minh Huong, both sides declined to comment on the meeting.
Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the ministry, said the Mondolkiri situation was not discussed, but said officials did talk about tightening the border between the two countries “to strictly control illegal immigrants.”
“If they don’t have any proper official letter or passport, they will not be allowed [into Cambodia],” he said.
Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia would continue to respect UN regulations regarding the rights of those seeking asylum from persecution, but noted that it was hard to differentiate between a refugee and someone seeking a better job. “Vietnam is not at war,” he added. “Vietnam is a peaceful country.”
Following their talk, Le Minh Huong and co-Ministers of Interior Sar Kheng and You Hockry signed an agreement of cooperation to exchange law enforcement information in areas such as illegal immigrants, organized crime, drug trafficking and other topics.
Indrika Rawatte, press officer in charge for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that there was ample room for a broad discussion on tightening the border between the two countries, since Cambodia’s borders are “porous.” But, he said, “We would like to make sure that asylum seekers do have access to protection.”