UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht said Monday he doubted Cambodia was observing international refugee treaties and allowing Montagnards fleeing Vietnam’s Central Highlands to continue seeking refuge in Cambodia.
During his week-long visit, Leuprecht said he met with a secretary of state of the Interior Ministry, Prum Sokha, who assured him that Cambodia is complying with its obligations under the 1951 Convention on Refugees.
“I’m not sure at all this is the case at the present,” Leuprecht said.
The government did allow the UN High Commission for Refugees to protect more than 1,000 Montagnards who began crossing the border 15 months ago, despite demands by Vietnam that they be returned.
But after Cambodia’s decision to allow some 900 of the asylum seekers to go to the US, Prime Minister Hun Sen closed the border to asylum seekers, drawing fire from rights groups and diplomats who report that at least dozens of Montagnards have been forcibly deported since the resettlement agreement was made.
The government maintains that those crossing the border are illegal immigrants who will be deported if they don’t have proper travel documents.
Of those resettling in the US, officials expect that a total of 250 Montagnards will have left Cambodia by the end of the week.
Fifty are expected to fly out today, IOM Officer-in-Charge Mohammad Alnassery said Tuesday.