VN Embassy Denies Reported Torture of Montagnard Man

The Vietnamese Embassy on Tuesday denied reports that a Mon­tagnard man had fled to Cam­bodia to seek political asylum after being tortured.

The staunchly anti-Vietnamese Montagnard Foundation, headquartered in South Caro­lina, claimed Monday that 21-year-old Y-Phuoc Buon Krong was held for two days in June by Vietnamese officials who allegedly beat him unconscious and spray­ed him with chemical mace, which led him to flee to Cambodia.

“I think this claim is only a claim, and in Vietnam no one has been tortured,” embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said. “The real situation in the Central Highlands of Vietnam is not as dark as some people claim…. In Vietnam, all people have equal rights and freedom.”

In a statement, the Montagnard Foun­dation alleged Y-Phuoc Buon Krong was arrested June 26, the day after he made remarks about the Viet­namese government’s reported mistreatment of minorities while officials with the UN High Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees were attempting to interview his mother in Dak Lak province.

The Montagnard Foundation—which has in the past admitted to exaggerating its claims to attract in­ter­national scrutiny to the Montag­nard cause—could not be contacted.

However a Human Rights Watch staffer wrote by e-mail from Wash­ington that HRW had received similar, credible reports about the incident from sources within Vietnam.

Inge Sturkenboom, UNHCR spokeswoman, said she could not comment on individual cases but confirmed that a UNHCR monitoring mission was in Dak Lak province at the time of the alleged incidents.

UNHCR also confirmed Tuesday that it had received 15 other Montag­nard asylum seekers.

Speaking on condition of anony­mity, a UNHCR official said four women and 11 men had arrived over the weekend.

“They came from Vietnam but we don’t know which border they came through because they don’t remember,” the official said.

Sturkenboom confirmed the arrivals but declined to provide details. “Their application for refugee status is being processed,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Thet Sam­bath and James Welsh)


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