Thirteen Montagnards Waiting to Apply for Asylum

Interior Ministry officials said Monday that the 13 Montagnard asylum seekers who arrived in Phnom Penh Sunday evening have not yet applied for asylum and will be deported back to Vietnam if they are deemed illegal immigrants after they are questioned.

“We will send those people to Vietnam if we find they are not really refugees,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said.

“We will take action following Cambodian law because the U.N. is not our boss.” Kerm Sarin, director of the Interior Ministry’s refugee department, said his officers have not yet made plans to question the 13.

“They just arrived last night, so we should let them stay for a few days to relax,” Mr. Sarin said of the group, who had been hiding out in the forests of Ratanakkiri province for weeks.

“We will invite them for questioning when we have time,” he said. Vivian Tan, the regional press officer for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said by email that her office has arranged the group’s accommodation in Phnom Penh.

“UNHCR will look after the needs of the Montagnard asylum-seekers while their claims are being assessed,” she said.

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