banlung, Ratanakkiri province -Two Montagnard asylum-seekers escaped a temporary holding site erected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the Ratanakkiri provincial capital Sunday night, the same night that two other asylum-seekers fled a district police station in neighboring Lumphat district, officials said this week.
Jarai minority members Nai Fang, 46, and Ksol Tun, 20, fled the UNHCR camp in an apparent bid to find their own way back to the Central Highlands of Vietnam, deputy provincial police Chief Chea Bunthoeun said Monday night.
Site residents said Nai Fang left behind two children, Chea Bunthoeun said. The ages of the children were unknown Tuesday.
According to interviews with some of the 139 asylum-seekers staying at the site who spoke with the men before their departure, “they missed home very much and they left,” Chea Bunthoeun said.
The pair are among an increasing number of refugees resisting the UNHCR’s attempts to resettle them in a third country. Many of them have said that they believe that remaining in Cambodia will prompt the UN to help resolve the confiscation of their ancestral homelands in Vietnam, according to a UNHCR statement Tuesday.
“However, this is well beyond the scope of UNHCR’s mandate and we have been concerned that Montagnards may be exposing themselves to vulnerability and risk acting on this illusion,” the statement read.
Police in Ratanakkiri who declined to be identified said that Montagnards who choose to leave the UNHCR site may be treated as illegal immigrants rather than asylum-seekers, and could face possible deportation to Vietnam.
Also Sunday night, two among a group of 31 Montagnards taken to the district police station in Lumphat district ran away from the office after burrowing through a hole in the barbed wire surrounding the station’s back fence, Chea Bunthoeun said.
The pair were part of a group of male asylum-seekers, aged 18 to 50, who arrived in Lumphat Sunday after a journey on foot from Vietnam’s Gia Lai province through Mondolkiri province and into Ratanakkiri, Chea Bunthoeun said.
Police found the group in the district town and took them to the district office, where they told officers that they left Vietnam on Nov 20. The UNHCR picked up the remaining 29 asylum-seekers from the station on Monday and took them to the temporary site, according to the UNHCR statement.