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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov't spokesman praises Montagnards deportation

Gov't spokesman praises Montagnards deportation

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Taken from video footage, this image shows armed police escorting Montagnards outside of "Site 2" in Phnom Penh. Other video footage was seized and erased by police.

N
ot throwing asylum seekers in jail was an act of humanity, says

Khieu Sopheak.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior has defended the violent and forced repatriation

of Montagnard asylum seekers from Phnom Penh to Vietnam, despite widespread condemnation

from local and international human rights groups.

Khieu Sopheak said the Montagnards entered Cambodia illegally and that authorities

should have been tougher on them.

"We acknowledge that we were wrong because we did not implement our immigration

law and those Montagnards should have been put in jail for between three and six

months before we sent them away," Sopheak said.

"Sending them away without [jail time] was the government's policy of humanity,"

he added.

On July 20, after their claims for asylum were rejected, Cambodian authorities deported

100 Vietnamese Montagnards.

Police beat men and women with batons and used stun batons to force the Montagnards

onto buses, according to several witnesses' statements collected by Human Rights

Watch.

"Police pulled one man out in front [of a group of seated Montagnards] and beat

him as he was lying on the cement," said one report. "Many more people

were beaten and dragged or carried out the gate. I saw a policeman kick one woman

in the stomach."

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), a group of 18 local human rights

NGOs, condemned the deportation, calling on the government to suspend plans for any

further forced repatriations.

Cambodia is obliged under the UN Convention Against Torture not to expel or return

any person to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that

they may be in danger of torture, wrote CHRAC.

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