UNHCR to Meet With Mondolkiri Officials

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees plans to travel to Mondolkiri province today to meet with provincial authorities and investigate reports that Montagnard asylum-seekers are hiding in the province, a UNHCR official said.

“It’s hard to predict what will happen, but hopefully it will be the same situation as in Ratanakkiri [province],” UNHCR’s Cathy Shin said on Wednesday.

The UNHCR collected 282 asylum-seekers in several visits to Ratanakkiri since July. The trip to Mondolkiri will be the UNHCR’s first visit to the province since Vietnam’s crackdown on Montagnard demonstrations for land rights and religious freedom in the Central Highlands last April provoked hundreds to seek asylum in Cambodia.

The refugee agency plans to first pay a courtesy call to Mondolkiri Governor Tor Soeuth to enlist the help of government authorities in looking for Montagnards, Shin said.

Tor Soeuth was in Siem Reap on Wednesday and said he did not know the UNHCR planned to travel to Mondolkiri.

Earlier this week the governor “received information that there are some refugees in the province, but I do not exactly know where they are,” he said.

Local rights group Adhoc reported that 15 Montagnards are hiding in the province, said Sam Sarin, the group’s provincial coordinator.

“We know where they are now,” he said. “The number of asylum-seekers might have increased because the flow is still going on and we cannot receive enough information.”

The UNHCR received reports about the Montagnards hiding in Mondolkiri from Adhoc, but Sam Sarin said the two groups did not discuss how they would cooperate.

Mondolkiri police chief Reach Samnang was in Phnom Penh on Wednesday and had no information on the asylum-seekers.

Khuy Khun Hour, Mondolkiri’s second deputy governor, and Nhem Vanny, deputy provincial police chief, did not answer phone calls on Wednesday.

The UNHCR plans to send one international and one national staff member to the province, Shin said, adding their stay will be open-ended.

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