Report Details Mistreatment of Montagnards

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.

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