Three More Montagnard Asylum Seekers Arrive in Phnom Penh

Three Montagnard asylum seekers arrived in Phnom Penh last week and are applying for refugee status at the Interior Ministry’s refugee department, the U.N. and a rights group confirmed Monday.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri province—to which nearly 30 Montagnard asylum seekers have fled over the past three months—said the three arrived in the capital on Wednesday.

“Today, the U.N. confirmed that they received three Vietnamese Jarai in Phnom Penh,” he said, referring to the Montagnards.

Mr. Thy said a Cambodian Jarai villager, who is helping to translate for the Montagnards, told him the group comprised two men and a woman.

Vivian Tan, the regional press officer for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, confirmed last night that the Montagnards had arrived in Phnom Penh.

“The 3 have been referred to the Refugee Department,” Ms. Tan said in an email. “We are working with our partners on their accommodation.”

Neither Mr. Thy nor Ms. Tan said how or where the three Montagnards crossed into Cambodia.

Kerm Sarin, head of the refugee department, said he was not aware of the group’s arrival and refused to answer further questions.

The Montagnards are an indigenous group concentrated in Vietnam’s Central Highlands that have long been persecuted by Hanoi.

Over the past three months, three separate groups of Montagnard asylum seekers have crossed into Ratanakkiri from Vietnam.

A group of 13 arrived in late October and hid in the forests of the province’s O’Yadaw and Lumphat districts until the U.N. and Interior Ministry reached them in December. They were then transferred to Phnom Penh, where the refugee department is currently processing them.

Five more Montagnards arrived on January 3 and have been hiding in O’Yadaw district since. On January 17, another group of nine joined the five in the district.

(Additional reporting by Aun Pheap)

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