Following National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy’s orders earlier this month to prevent Montagnard asylum-seekers from entering the country, US-based Human Rights Watch released a report detailing large-scale arrests and torture of Montagnards in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
Relatives left behind by Montagnard asylum-seekers who have fled to Cambodia have been arrested and detained by Vietnamese authorities, according to the report, titled “Vietnam: New Evidence of Torture, Mass Arrests of Montagnards, Cambodia Slams Door on New Asylum Seekers.”
The report, dated January 2005, includes testimony of harassment and house arrest at the hands of Vietnamese authorities from Montagnards who returned to Vietnam after arriving in Cambodia. It adds that “[h]undreds of Montagnards had attempted to flee to Cambodia. Those who were intercepted were ‘savagely beaten.’”
During a meeting with Ratanakkiri provincial officials on Jan 1 and Jan 2, Hok Lundy ordered provincial police to bolster security at the border to prevent Montagnards from entering the country. RCAF Deputy Commander-in-Chief General Meas Sophea and provincial Governor Kham Khoeun warned against the spread of Christianity in the province.
Hok Lundy also said that a group of some 450 Montagnards currently under protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Phnom Penh would soon be sent back to Vietnam.
But on Sunday, Ngyuen Than Duc, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said he had not yet been notified as to when the group would be repatriated. While he said Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed on measures to strengthen border security, such efforts were to stop those crossing the border illegally, not specifically Montagnards.
“We have had…discussions and measures to cooperate between the two countries to protect the border,” Nguyen said.
He declined immediate comment on the report but said he would respond later today. Some 50 Montagnards in Ratanakkiri province are waiting to be taken to Phnom Penh to seek asylum from the UNHCR, said Pen Bonnar, director of the Ratanakkiri branch of the rights group Adhoc.