As Yemen slides further into violence and chaos, officials are attempting to extricate eight Cambodian students studying there and send them back home, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Sunday.
Mr. Kuong said the Cambodian Embassy in Kuwait had been cooperating with the Malaysian Embassy in Yemen to get the students out of the country, which is embroiled in sectarian unrest.
“Recently, we cooperated with the Malaysian Embassy in Yemen and, initially, we found eight students in a place we think is not safe,” Mr. Kuong said. “We will continue to look for others.”
Mr. Kuong said the students, who are Muslim and ethnic Cham, had been relocated to a safer place in Yemen, but that he did not know the location.
“I will be informed when they arrive” in Cambodia, he said.
Othsman Hassan, a secretary of state at the Labor Ministry and prominent member of Cambodia’s Cham Muslim community, said there could be several dozen other Cambodian students in Yemen, but that he did not have enough information to be more precise.
“Now we are working on this and trying to get more information,” he said.
Vann Math, president of the Cambodia Islamic Association, said the secretary-general of the World Muslim League, who was in Phnom Penh on Thursday for a conference on religion, told him about the students during the event.
Mr. Math said Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen al-Turki, the secretary-general, told him that the eight students were studying in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, but were evacuated after a Saudi-led coalition began bombing the city.
“I don’t have much information about them,” Mr. Math said. “All of them left Malaysia and Thailand to continue their studies there and their studies are based on religion.”
Mr. Math said that he had been told that the Malaysian Embassy was keeping them in a safe place and was preparing to send them back to Cambodia.
“We do not know where they are now and we are waiting for information from Malaysia,” he said.
Mr. Math also said that he did not know how many Cambodians were studying in Yemen and that no family members of the students had contacted his organization.
Ros Salin, spokesman for the Education Ministry, said he was aware of the operation to rescue the eight students, and that a team from his ministry was working with the Foreign Affairs Ministry to find out more about them.
“So far, we haven’t gotten much information and our team is working on this,” he said.
Last year, the Houthis, a Shiite minority in Yemen, seized most of the country’s north, including Sanaa. Since then, both the Islamic State group and al-Qaida have carried out attacks in Yemen that have killed hundreds of civilians.
Late last month, a Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes targeting Houthi positions, many of which were in Sanaa.