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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard asylum seekers to be sent back

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Police vehicles standby a place where the Montagnards are seeking refuge for the time being, after their asylum was rejected. POST STAFF

Montagnard asylum seekers to be sent back

Sixteen Montagnards who sought refugee status in Cambodia are due to return to Vietnam today, according to the Kingdom’s refugee director, General Tan Sovichea.

The latest repatriation comes after 25 Montagnards – members of predominantly Christian mountain tribes from the Vietnamese highlands – were sent back in April.

Earlier that month, nearly 50 Montagnards fled Cambodia for Thailand, fearing they would be repatriated to Vietnam where they claimed they were persecuted.

“They volunteered to return, because they cannot get refugee status,” said Sovichea of the 16.

“They are on the way to the border in a car prepared by the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].”

When asked if the asylum seekers had a choice in returning, Sovichea admitted they “had no choice”.

Apart from an early group of 13 Montagnards granted refugee status and sent to the Philippines, Cambodia has rejected all but three asylum applications out of roughly 200.

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