Refugee Group Leaves for New Future in Canada

Dressed in new clothes and with their few belongings packed in In­ter­national Organization for Mi­gration-marked plastic bags, eight Montagnard refugees flew out of Phnom Penh on Wednesday morn­­­ing to a new life in Canada.

Montagnards have been resettled in the US and Finland, but this is the first group to go to Canada, UN High Commissioner for Refu­gees resettlement officer Teresa Woods said.

The group will resettle in Van­couver, Canada, a city that’s a good fit considering its multicultural population, though this will be the first Montagnard population there, Wood said.

Sitting outside the Phnom Penh In­­­ternational Airport terminal waiting for their flight, the seven men and one woman admitted they didn’t know anything about Cana­da.

“When we get to Canada we hope Canada will support us and give us education,” Y Kla, 43, said through a translator.

Y Kla and his nephew Dieu Lanh were arrested in their village in Vietnam’s Dak Nong province last May after villagers protested against the Vietnamese government’s restrictions on religious free­dom and land grabbing in the Central Highlands.

“We need religious freedom and our land back,” Dieu Lanh said.

The Vietnamese police accused Mon­tagnards of helping the French in the 1950s and the US  in the 1960s, Y Kla said.

On May 21, 2004, Y Kla and Dieu Lanh decided to leave their families and escape to Cambodia.

Released by Vietnamese police, the two men left their village and hid in the jungle where Y Kla’s son de­livered food before they started their hard journey to Cam­bod­ia. They hid from Cambo­d­ian and Vietnamese security forces until they were taken under the protection of UNHCR on Aug 8, Y Kla said.

Moving to a country they know nothing about will be hard, they said. But they hope their families  can follow. Before entering the terminal Y Kla said, “I hope to get my family sponsored so they can come, too.”


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