Vietnam Denies Persecution of Montagnards

The Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh on Monday rejected a report by US-based Human Rights Watch detailing large-scale arrests and torture of Mon­tag­­nards in Vietnam’s Central High­lands.

“Vietnam has no torture. There is no political persecution in Viet­nam,” embassy spokesman Ngu­yen Thanh Duc said by telephone.

“I have to deny the fabrication and distorted information that Human Rights Watch put in the report.”

The report, dated January 2005 and titled “Vietnam: New Evi­dence of Torture, Mass Arrests of Mon­tagnards, Cambodia Slams Door on New Asylum Seekers,” in­cludes testimony of harassment and house arrest of Montagnards who returned to Vietnam after fleeing to Cambodia.

It includes testimony from an unnamed member of the Mnong (also known as Phnong) ethnic group in Dak Nong province, who said he was arrested in April 2004 and severely beaten by po­lice several times, as authorities tried to obtain the names of other Montagnard activists.

The man recounted that police pulled out one of his toe nails, beat him repeatedly on the thighs with a rubber baton, and punched him in the face, knocking out one of his teeth, the report said. He was then transferred to a provincial prison and beaten further, the report said.

US immigration officials interviewed Montagnard refugees residing at the UN High Com­missioner for Refugees’ facilities in Phnom Penh last week about the possibility of being resettled in the US.

The UNHCR has been in­formed by the government that about 330 refugees, of some 770 housed in Phnom Penh, want to go to the US, Thamrongsak Mee­chubot, the UNHCR’s representative in Cambodia, said Monday.

Canada is expected to interview Mon­­tagnards later this month about possible repatriation there, and Finland may do the same in February, Mee­chu­bot said.

About 300 of the asylum-seekers in Phnom Penh are yet to have their asylum claims re­viewed, although that figure is changing all the time with new arrivals, he said.






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