Montagnard Deportation Concerns UN Envoy

The UN human rights envoy to Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, said Monday he was “deeply concerned” by Saturday’s deportation of 63 Montagnards who had fled Vietnam’s Central Highlands for Cambodia.

“These deportations are a clear violation of the 1951 Convention on Refugees, to which Cambodia is a party,” Leuprecht, who ar­rived in Cambodia Sunday, wrote in a statement. “This is not the first time that such incidents have come to the Special Repre­sen­tative’s attention.”

The deportations have also drawn fire from the UN High Commis­sioner for Refugees, which was refused access to the 63 Mon­tagnards by Ratanakkiri province authorities, who claimed they were illegal immigrants and must be sent back.

Although over 1,000 Mon­tagnard asylum seekers in the past year have been allowed to seek refuge with the UNHCR at camps in Ratanakkiri and Mon­dol­kiri provinces, the Cambodian government appears to be in­crea­singly unwilling to cooperate with the UNHCR. Authorities have begun openly referring to asylum seekers as “illegals” and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said Sunday the government had no policy to allow them to reach the two UNHCR camps.

Leuprecht wrote that during a previous visit to Cambodia, he had said he hoped the government would uphold its international obligations. “The Special Repre­sentative regrets that this does not appear to be the case,” he wrote.

Repatriation efforts for the more than 1,000 Montagnards under UNHCR protection have stalled pending new talks between the agency, Cambodia and Vietnam.


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