Vietnamese agents are reportedly offering Cambodian officials in Mondolkiri province a “large sum” of money to turn over jailed Montagnard refugee Y Hung, who human rights workers say is considered a political agitator by the Vietnamese government.
Y Hung was arrested last month and charged by Cambodian authorities with allegedly kidnapping a young woman who lives near the UN High Commissioner for Refugees camp in Mondolkiri.
The accusation has been denied by the young woman, Nhi Neung, who says she is Y Hung’s wife and repeatedly visited him in the camp on her own volition. Nhi Neung says Cambodian authorities tried to pressure her into filing rape charges against Y Hung in exchange for $2,500.
Rights workers and other observers say Cambodian officials have no evidence against Y Hung, and claim his arrest is a bid by the Vietnamese to disrupt the ongoing Montagnard resettlement preparations.
It now appears the Vietnamese are trying to seize Y Hung by offering money to Cambodian authorities, an observer said Wednesday.
A human rights worker recently called Y Hung one of the three men most wanted by Vietnamese authorities for their role in organizing the year-long exodus of Montagnards from Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said Wednesday he has raised Y Hung’s case “in a very high profile way with a very authoritative [Cambodian] official” and received assurances that Y Hung would not be handed over to the Vietnamese.
“This gentleman is being looked at exclusively under Cambodian law…. If those assurances are not honored I would be very disturbed and that could have consequences,” Wiedemann said.
Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Duy Hung said Wednesday he was not aware of Y Hung’s imprisonment, or of any other people in the UNHCR camps who are being sought by authorities for breaking the law in Vietnam.
He said Vietnam would continue to offer “safe, voluntary and dignified” repatriation to the Montagnards, but would seek to extradite anyone suspected of violating the law.
Plans are now being made to move the 905 Montagnards remaining under UNHCR protection from the agency’s two camps in northeastern Cambodia to Phnom Penh, where they will be processed by US officials before being resettled in the US.
Provincial police officials say the move won’t begin until after the Khmer New Year. It’s unclear if the move will affect Y Hung.
“Y Hung is under the court’s jurisdiction. We have no right to involve ourselves in Y Hung’s future and whether or not he will be sent to Phnom Penh,” said Khoy Khunhear, first deputy governor of Mondolkiri province.