UN High Commissioner for Refugees regional representative Jahanshah Assadi is expected to meet today with Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong, amid growing concerns that a deal to resettle hundreds of Vietnamese Montagnards in the US will complicate efforts by the agency to deal with future asylum seekers fleeing to Cambodia.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sunday he would allow the 905 Montagnards currently under the UNHCR’s protection to go to the US, but he also ordered the agency’s two camps in Cambodia closed and the border with Vietnam sealed.
Hundreds of Cambodian police have been sent to the border with instructions to deport any “illegal immigrants” who come into the country, a diplomatic source said.
“We have to send them back,” Hor Namhong said this week.
Observers claim this violates the 1951 refugee convention, signed by Cambodia, which requires a country to offer at least temporary shelter to potential asylum seekers while their claims are processed by the UNHCR.
“We expect Cambodia to live up to its international obligations as a party to the 1951 refugee convention,” UNHCR official Indrika Ratwatte told Reuters Tuesday. “That’s an important part of Cambodia’s responsibility.”
The evacuation of the UNHCR’s two Montagnard camps—one in Mondolkiri province and the other in Ratanakkiri—appears to have been delayed, perhaps because the UNHCR is seeking assurance from the Cambodian government that it won’t halt future UNHCR Montagnard operations.
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