The government yesterday announced that it has extended deadlines for all Montagnard refugees and unregistered asylum seekers to leave Cambodia.
A statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following a two-day meeting in Vietnam said the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR) would be given three more months to find resettlement options for 13 Montagnards – a minority group from Vietnam’s central highlands – recognised as refugees in March.
“The period of six months [to find resettlement options] was over on October 10 2015 and UNHCR could not find a third country, but to continue the good cooperation with UNHCR, the Royal Government of Cambodia has decided to delay [the deadline] for three months until January 10 2016,” the letter reads.
It adds that 200 unregistered Montagnard asylum seekers – whom the government claims were brought “secretly” into Cambodia by UNHCR in “violation of Cambodia’s sovereignty” – should return to Vietnam by February 6, an extension on a three-month deadline announced by the Interior Ministry last month for the asylum seekers to return home or be forcibly expelled.
“UNHCR must repatriate those Montagnards to Vietnam one after another until the end,” the statement said.
Vivian Tan, a regional spokesperson for UNHCR, said the agency had been informed of the new deadlines, which “will give us more time to seek solutions”.