The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee issued an appeal to the international community Monday to investigate the first known deportation of Montagnard asylum seekers, who were sent back to Vietnam in late March.
“This action affects the prestige of the government, which had signed the international agreement on refugees,” the statement said. “The action committee also would like to appeal to the international community to use its influence to watch over the safety of the 19 Vietnamese minorities.”
The statement by the umbrella group comprised of 18 NGOs follows a report issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch that condemned the deportation of at least 89 Montagnards from Mondolkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces in recent weeks. Cheav Kim Ieng, a member of the human rights committee and also a Licadho rights worker, said the group decided to focus on the first group of 19 who were deported since Human Rights Watch focused more on the recent repatriations.
Director General of National Police Hok Lundy told US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann in a meeting earlier this month that at least 19 Montagnards had been repatriated in late March, two days before Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered that asylum seekers in Cambodia be protected.
The later deportations came after assurances from Hok Lundy and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who told Jahanshah Assadi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ regional representative, that Montagnard asylum seekers would not be returned to Vietnam.
Canadian Ambassador Normand Mailhot on Wednesday said he plans to visit the makeshift camp in Mondolkiri where 160 Montagnard asylum seekers are staying.
“It’s one thing to exchange views with government leaders in the capital, but there is no substitute for going in the field and seeing the situation by yourself,” Mailhot said.
Twenty-four Montagnards, the first-known group of asylum seekers discovered in Cambodia, were arrested in Mondolkiri in March and have since been resettled in the US.