Montagnards en Route to Phnom Penh

The U.N. is transferring a group of 13 Montagnard asylum seekers who have been hiding in a forest in Ratanakkiri province for the past two months to Phnom Penh, the U.N. and police said on Sunday.

“I just know they are on their way” to Phnom Penh, said Bushra Rahman, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia. 

“I haven’t received an update today,” she added.

Chhay Thy, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said one group of eight Montagnards left the forest to meet with the U.N. delegation on Saturday in Lumphat district’s Seda commune.

Mr. Thy said border police found a second group of five people on Saturday night in O’Yadau district’s Yatong commune. He added that police then sent the group to provincial authorities, before they were handed over to the U.N. later that night.

“Provincial police chief [Nguon Koeun] handed eight Montagnard refugees to the U.N. at about 7 p.m. and they handed another group of five people at about 9 p.m.,” he said today.

“The Montagnard refugees this morning are on their way to Phnom Penh in a U.N. vehicle, escorted by a police vehicle with a siren,” he added.

Mr. Koeun, the provincial police chief, confirmed today that he had handed the asylum seekers to the U.N. on Saturday night.

“We agreed to hand over the 13 people to the U.N. because they showed us identity [documents] for those people,” he said.

The 13 Montagnards, an indigenous group concentrated in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, have said they are fleeing persecution at the hands of the Vietnamese government.

Since the asylum seekers arrived in Cambodia, a group of Cambodian Jarai—one of the about 30 tribes that make up the Montagnards—have been hiding them in a forest in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)

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