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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asylum seekers sent back to VN

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Police vehicles sit outside a house where Montagnard asylum seekers are housed in Phnom Penh. Post staff

Asylum seekers sent back to VN

Twenty-five Montagnard asylum seekers were returned to Vietnam yesterday, some two years after fleeing to Cambodia citing persecution, the immigration department confirmed yesterday.

Meanwhile, the government has apparently backtracked on plans to deport a young Ede couple who were arrested by Cambodian immigration police on April 12 on the pretence they planned to flee to Thailand.

Grace Bui, of the Montagnard Assistance Project in Thailand, spoke with the couple last night.

The pair, she said, told her they were released after eight days in detention and had returned to the capital’s Por Sen Chey district, where they and other fellow asylum seekers are housed.

“The police just came and called them down and arrested them without giving them any reason,” Bui said.

“The man was asked, ‘Are you planning to escape?’, and he said, ‘No, my wife is four months pregnant, so we need to go [back to the house]’. Then the officer slammed the table. The officer told him they were planning to run away.”

Bui said the pair, like dozens of others, were still awaiting the outcome of their first interview to determine if they qualified for refugee status. They were given no reason for their sudden release, Bui said.

Kerm Sarin, director of administration at the Ministry of Interior’s refugee department, said the 25 returnees had voluntarily agreed to leave once it became clear their refugee claims would be rejected.

“They left Phnom Penh this morning under the UNHCR arrangement to the O’Yadav border checkpoint,” Sarin said. “Through the process of the government and the UNHCR, they have failed to receive a status as refugees.”

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