The U.N. says its efforts to meet a group of Montagnards hiding in Ratanakkiri province were stalled yet again Friday after authorities said any attempt to locate the group would require the approval of the provincial governor, who was not available to meet with the U.N.
Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, put the delay down to “communication problems” between officials.
“Due to communication problems between the local and national authorities…the officials dispatched to Ratanakkiri were unable to proceed to meet with the Montagnards,” Ms. Lee said in an email.
“We look forward to settling all remaining issues and meeting the Montagnards as soon as possible,” she added.
Ly Vin, deputy provincial governor, said he told the delegation he agreed in principle to allow them to meet the 13 asylum seekers currently hiding in Lumphat district, but the all-clear from provincial governor Thorng Savun was also required.
“We agreed to let them meet the Montagnards but we need to wait for a decision from His Excellency provincial governor because he was busy at a meeting in Phnom Penh,” said Mr. Vin, adding that Mr. Savun would not be returning to Ratanakkiri for “two to three days.”
Mr. Vin said he also believed a letter penned by Interior Minister Sar Kheng to Jean-Francois Cautain, the European Union’s ambassador to Cambodia, indicated the Montagnards would likely be transferred to Phnom Penh.
“It’s not a problem to bring those Montagnards to Phnom Penh…. I think that in accordance with the letter from His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng. It is a green light,” said Mr. Vin, who praised the U.N. for discovering the whereabouts of the Montagnards.
“I ordered police to find them but they could not…. It is good that the U.N. knew where they are,” he added.
Thursday’s attempt comes after a U.N. team returned to Phnom Penh on December 5 following a failed three-day effort to negotiate a meeting with the Montagnards, with local officials insisting on a permission letter from the Interior Ministry.