Police Fail To Find 5 Montagnard Asylum-Seekers

Police in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district on Tuesday wrap­ped up an unsuccessful 10-day search in a village for five Mon­tag­nard asylum-seekers from Viet­nam’s Central Highlands, said Pen Bon­nar, Ad­hoc provincial coordinator.

About 30 police were looking for the four men and one woman who they believed were hiding in Pok Nyay commune’s Lom village, Pen Bon­­nar said.

“Police looked in the forest, looked in the homes and asked the people, but the people said they didn’t know” where the Montag­nards were, Pen Bonnar said.

“The people appeal to the UNHCR to go to help [the five] im­mediately,” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Re­fugees asked the Ministry of For­eign Affairs two or three weeks ago for permission to go and look for the five, said Thamrongsak Meech­ubot, UNHCR country representative.

“We remind [the ministry] that we are still waiting,” he said.

Hem Heng, Foreign Ministry spokes­man, was not available for com­ment Thursday evening.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the ministry has never ordered po­lice to search for Mon­tag­nards in order to send them back to Viet­nam.

“We don’t encourage Montag­nards to [come] into Cambodia, but we also fulfill our obligations as members of the 1951 convention” on refugees, he said.

Asked about the reported police op­eration, Hor Ang, deputy provincial police chief, said: “I asked [villagers] to report to us, so that [the Montagnards] would not live miserably in the forest and could come and get shelter.”

According to a report by Agence France-Presse, a UNHCR official who recently visited the Central Highlands said he saw no sign of mis­treatment of Mon­tagnards who vol­untarily re­turned to Vietnam after leaving UNHCR protection.

“While talking with the returnees they all said they had no problems,” AFP quoted Vu Anh Son, a Viet­nam­ese national and head of mission for UNHCR in Vietnam, as saying.



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