Montagnard Asylum Seekers Resume Crossing Into Ratanakkiri

After more than a month of no new reports of Montagnard asylum seekers fleeing Vietnam for Cambodia, 11 arrived in Ratanakkiri province late Sunday night, the U.N. and a rights group said Monday.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said locals told him that the Montagnards arrived in Andong Meas district just before midnight.

“I have already reported to the U.N. about the arrival of the 11,” Mr. Thy said.

In an email, Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she was aware of their arrival.

“We have also heard the same reports. To the best of our knowledge, the information is credible,” she said.

An ethnic Jarai villager, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from authorities, said the Montagnards—10 men and one woman—showed up at his house in Andong Meas on Sunday night.

“They told me they fled from Vietnam because the authorities threatened to kill them because they were practicing Christianity,” he said.

“Each of them begged me to help them and told me they would be killed if I refused,” he added.

The villager said the Montagnards were now hiding in the forest in the district. “I will visit them tonight with a bag of 30 cans full of rice for them to cook, because it took them five days to travel from Vietnam and they had no food to eat.”

Another local Jarai man, who has aided all of the 90-plus Montagnard asylum seekers who have arrived in Ratanakkiri since October, said some residents of the area where the 11 were hiding did not want them there.

“They don’t want police to disturb them,” he said.

Deputy Andong Meas police chief Uy Bol said he had not heard about the group’s arrival and believed they could not have entered the district without police knowing.

“I don’t think those people would be able to cross into this area, because we have many police deployed,” Mr. Bol said.

Beginning in late October, waves of Montagnards—an indigenous group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands—began crossing into Cambodia, primarily via Ratanakkiri province. Most have claimed to be fleeing religious and political persecution from authorities back home.

Of the more than 90 who have entered Cambodia since October, only 24 have made it to Phnom Penh. Thirteen of those were formally recognized as refugees by the Interior Ministry last month, while the rest are waiting to apply for asylum.

Dozens have been deported back to Vietnam.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)

pheap@cambodiadaily.com

© 2015, All rights reserved.