Montagnards Continue To Enter Camps

A slow, steady trickle of Mont­agnards from Vietnam has continued to flow into UN camps in Mondolkiri and Ratanakkiri prov­inces this month, UN officials say.

Most are children or immediate family of those who have already arrived, so they are automatically granted temporary protection by the UN, said Katy Grant, a field officer with the UN High Com­missioner for Refugees.

Thirty of the asylum seekers are still being interviewed in the Ratanakkiri camp and 137 are being screened in Mondolkiri, said John Farvolden, officer in charge of Cambodia’s UNHCR office. They are housed separately from those already granted protected status to assure that UN officials receive first-hand information from them, he said.

More than 30 of the roughly 100 Montagnards screened out earlier by the UNHCR have re­turned to the camp and are being re-interviewed, he said. The Mondolkiri camp now holds 432 asylum seekers and the Ratan­akkiri camp 137, according to the UNHCR statistics.

In recent weeks 116 more Montagnards have arrived at the camps, all from the Daklak province in central Vietnam. UN officials say they have not identified any particular recent incidents in Vietnam that led to the most recent migration.

The Montagnards, who are mostly Christians, claim to be victims of religious oppression and land-grabbing in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. After a crackdown following protests earlier this year, the Montagnards began fleeing to Cambodia.

The Cambodian government said the Montagnards can stay under UN care while a repatriation agreement is negotiated with Viet­nam. But the agreement has been stalled because Vietnam is unwilling to allow UN monitors into the Central Highlands to oversee the repatriation, UN officials say.

UN officials are expected to meet again with Vietnamese authorities later this month or in October to try to reopen repatriation talks, while senior Cambo­dian officials are pushing both sides to find a solution.


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