Troops Circling Montagnard Villages: US Group

Four Montagnard villages in Vi­et­­­nam’s Central Highlands have been surrounded by heavily arm­ed soldiers since the start of last week, a US-based lobby group, the Mon­tag­nard Founda­tion, claim­ed in a statement Mon­day.

The allegations come on the heels of 10 Montagnard asylum-seek­ers from Vietnam’s Gia Lai prov­ince having arrived in Rata­nak­­kiri prov­ince Friday, after at­tempting to cross the border with 40 others who were turned back by Vietna­mese authorities, a local rights work­er reported.

The staunchly anti-Vietnamese Mon­tagnard Foundation alleges that Vietnamese soldiers in about 40 trucks surrounded the villages in Vietnam’s Phu Yen province on May 15 in an attempt to suppress pr­otests arising after several Mon­tag­nards were allegedly denied medical treatment due to their race.

Three Montagnards from the province’s Son Hoa district needed treatment after they were allegedly at­tacked with a machete by an ethnic Vietnamese man, the foundation claimed in a statement. The foundation has admitted ex­aggerating reports in the past.

“The Montagnard Foundation prays for a peaceful solution and re­­quests the Vietnamese soldiers use re­straint,” the foundation said.

A Vietnamese Embassy official said he could not comment on the re­port but added that the Montag­n­ards had no cause for complaint.

“They are living peacefully and [the] same for other minorities in the Vietnamese community,” he said.

“They are facing no more persecution and are living in better conditions and this was recognized by a [representative] from UNHCR,” he added.

Last month, UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees Assistant High Commissioner for Pro­tec­tion Erika Feller said the process of returning 190 Montagnard asylum-seekers who were returned to Gia Lai from Cambodia was “work­­ing well.”

Feller added that the UN agen­cy had “no serious concerns” about conditions awaiting the re­turn­ees.

UNHCR spokeswoman Debo­rah Backus said her agency could not verify the foundation’s claims and therefore could not comment.


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