UNHCR Picks Up Montagnard Asylum-Seekers

UN High Commissioner for Ref­u­gees staff and government officials on Tuesday and Wednesday collected 54 Montagnard asylum-seekers from Ratanakkiri province, a UNHCR official said.​​​

Forty-five Montagnards were collected in O’Yadaw district Tues­day, while an additional nine were picked up on Wednesday in Bokeo distict, UNHCR spokeswoman Deb­orah Bac­kus said Wednesday.

The group of 31 men, 12 women and 11 children are currently hous-­ed in the provincial capital Banlung, Backus said.

“They’re all in the site now. They’ve cleaned up and had showers,” Backus said, adding that the asy­lum-seekers have been visited by a doctor and are generally in good health.

Backus said some of the 54, particularly women, have stated that they have relatives or spouses who have previously fled Vietnam’s Cen­tral Highlands and subsequently been resettled in the US.

Twenty-seven of the group are ex­pected to fly to Phnom Penh on Fri­day, while the others are scheduled to go on Sunday and Monday.

In a statement last week, the UNHCR said it was concerned that Cam­bodian nationals pretending to be Montagnards from Vietnam have been paying people who may be involved in trafficking to transport them to Phnom Penh as would-be asylum seekers. In some cases, several hundred dol­lars were paid to people who took the Cam­bo­dians to the UNHCR, Backus said.

Khieu Sopheak, Interior Minis­try spokesman, said that if the 54 re­ceive refugee status, they will not be allowed to stay in Cambodia.

“We still have the same position that Cambodia won’t be a safety place for them,” he said. “We cannot accept them as refugees, working and doing business in Cambo­dia in this difficult time,” he said.

But he added that Cambodian of­ficials cooperated with the UNHCR in collecting the Montag­n­ards, and that Cambodia is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Con­vention.



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