UNHCR Mum on Montagnard Torture Allegations

Citing confidentiality requirements, the UN High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees has declined to discuss allegations that Vietnamese au­thorities tortured a Montagnard asylum seeker who then reportedly fled to Cambodia.

The Vietnamese Embassy on Tuesday rejected accusations leveled Monday by the US-based Montagnard Foundation and Human Rights Watch that 21-year-old Y-Phuoc Buon Krong had been tortured for reporting rights violations to UNHCR in June.

In a response to written questions Wednesday, UNHCR’s Phnom Penh office confirmed several of the circumstances described in the Montagnard Foundation’s press statement, saying officials had interviewed Y-Phuoc Buon Krong’s mother and the mothers of two other men who had fled to Cam­bodia, but denied that the 21-year-old had spoken up during the visit.

“As soon as allegations of mistreatment were made, UNHCR followed up with Vietnamese authorities and were assured that Y-Phuoc Buon Krong had not been arrested,” the agency’s letter read.

“Regarding the allegations of torture of Y-Phuoc Buon Krong, UNHCR will not publicly discuss the details of this case on grounds of confidentiality. UNHCR would appreciate any evidence of torture that can be provided.”

In a statement to the press Thurs­day, the Montagnard Foun­dation said it stood by its claims and also alleged that Vietnamese au­thorities had threatened villagers to deter them from complaining to UNHCR.

UNHCR declined to comment on this latest statement, however Viet­namese Embassy spokes­man Trinh Ba Cam on Thursday de­nied the allegation and said US, Euro­pean and UN monitors had failed to corro­borate similar claims in the past.

“No torture. Nothing like you told me,” he said, adding that the new allegation of intimidation was not plausible.

In an e-mail Thursday, Rights Watch Refugee Policy Director Bill Frelick said his organization now took the reported torture as fact.

“We have sources in the Central Highlands that have independently confirmed this incident,” he wrote. “We are extremely concerned about continuing reports of threats, harassment, and even detention and beatings of Montagnards visited by international delegations.”


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