Ten Montagnard asylum-seekers were deported from Cambodia yesterday morning and are now back in Vietnam’s central highlands, the UN refugee agency said.
Kitty McKinsey, regional spokeswoman for UNHCR, said the Montagnards, whose applications for refugee status had been rejected, had left Phnom Penh by road yesterday morning and had crossed the border with Vietnam by the afternoon.
“The 10 asylum-seekers who were found not to be refugees went back to Vietnam today,” she said. “They crossed over the border.”
She said four other Montagnards had been flown out of Cambodia on Monday night destined for the US, where they are now being resettled.
Until last week, there had been 75 Montagnards residing in a UN refugee center in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district. But the center closed down on Tuesday to meet a government-imposed deadline to cease operations.
There are now just 11 Montagnards remaining in Cambodia, one of whom will emigrate to the US and 10 others whose cases are still being processed.
Ms McKinsey declined to say where the remaining Montagnards were situated for security reasons.
Human rights workers say that Montagnards, many of whom are Christian, are still persecuted for their beliefs in Vietnam. In December, Release International, an organization that assists persecuted Christians around the world, reported that Nguyen Hong Quang, a Montagnard pastor who leads the Mennonite church in Vietnam, was beaten unconscious at his school in Ho Chi Minh City.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement yesterday that it continued to receive credible reports of persecution of Montagnards in Vietnam, where more than 300 have been imprisoned since 2001 for peaceful expression of their religious or political views or for trying to seek asylum in Cambodia.
The organization said in a 2006 report that Vietnamese authorities tortured and imprisoned some Montagnard asylum-seekers who returned to Vietnam after having been either voluntarily or forcibly deported from Cambodia. Vietnamese authorities rejected the accusations.