Lawmaker: Police Abuse Refugees

Five more Montagnards from Viet­nam’s Central Highlands have   reached Phnom Penh amidst allegations that Cam­bodian police officers raped and robbed members of an 80-strong group of asylum seekers before deporting them last week from Mondolkiri pro­vince.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay called on the Interior Mini­stry to launch a full investigation into the reports of police brutality. The reports were supported by human rights workers in Mondol­kiri Thursday. “I volunteer to join with the investigation team…to en­sure the abusive police are penalized based on the law,” Son Chhay wrote in a letter to co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng.

Mondolkiri Deputy Governor Nha Raing Chan and Chin Sarun, provincial deputy police chief, both denied the allegations Thursday.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Thursday he was unsure if the ministry would launch an investigation. He also said he could not confirm reports that Montagnards had been de­ported to Vietnam. The government did not deport any “refu­gees,” but it did deport “illegal Vietnamese immigrants,” he said.

“Our border police know who is a real visitor, illegal immigrant, drug dealer or refugee,” Khieu Sopheak said. “They can tell by the face.”

Two of the five Montagnards to reach Phnom Penh this week arrived Sunday and the rest came on Thursday, said Nikola Mihaj­lovic, head of the UN re­fugees agency office in Phnom Penh.

The five men left Vietnam be­fore the Montagnard demonstrations in the Central Highlands on April 10 and April 11, he added. They were “hiding for a long period of time,” Mihajlovic said.

The Interior Ministry has re­peat­edly accused the UN of smug­gling refugees from border areas to Phnom Penh.

Jean-Marie Fakhouri, director of the UN High Commissioner for Re­fugees’ Asia bureau, said last week “any notion that the UNHCR is acting to lure people across the border is quite ludicrous.”


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