Montagnards Deported Back to VN, NGO Alleges

Ten Montagnard asylum seekers who arrived in the jungles of Ratanakkiri province earlier this month were arrested by police in the provincial capital of Banlung on Friday and deported the same day back to Vietnam, local rights group Adhoc said Sunday. Senior Ratanakkiri officials immediately denied the allegation.

According to Pen Bonnar, Ad­hoc provincial coordinator, the Montagnards were arrested Friday morning while trying to board a pick-up truck to Phnom Penh, where they intended to seek asylum with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The 10 had emerged from the jungle in Lumphat district, where they were hiding, and were leaving the district on motorcycle taxis when they were spotted by local authorities, Pen Bonnar said.

Officials then followed the Montagnards until they arrived in Banlung, where they were arrested, he said. The group had arrived in Cambodia on March 15.

Provincial Police Chief Ray Rai denied any Montagnard had been arrested. “I was not reported about this, and it is not true,” he said. “If they were arrested, I would be informed.”

Provincial Governor Moung Poy also denied the allegation. “It is not true at all,” he said.

Pen Bonnar alleged that local au­thorities breached the 2005 memorandum of understanding between Cambodia, Vietnam and the UNHCR by deporting the Montagnards before they could apply for asylum.

“Local authorities should have allowed the opportunity for the UNHCR to interview them first, and they did not respect the agreement signed by the government and the UNHCR on this matter,” Pen Bonnar said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Stur­kenboom said her agency was waiting to receive more information about the alleged deportations.

The UNHCR has formally re­quested that the government permit a joint mission to Ratanak­kiri province to retrieve the Mon­tagnards, but the agency is still waiting for authorization to do so, Sturkenboom added.

Ten more Montagnards re­main in hiding in Ratanakkiri after arriving from Vietnam last week, Pen Bonnar said.

“They should not emerge from the forest. They should stay in the forest until the UNHCR comes to accept them,” he said.



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