Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

Eighteen ethnic Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province
Eighteen ethnic Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province earlier this year after they fled to Cambodia to escape political persecution. ADHOC

Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

More Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam arrived in Phnom Penh over the weekend, bringing the number waiting to apply for refugee status to 109, according to the United Nations.

Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said the Montagnards – an indigenous group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands – were “awaiting registration” by the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Department.

Since October, well over 100 Montagnards have fled to the Kingdom, citing religious and political persecution.

Dozens have been deported without due process and, so far, just 13 have been granted provisional refugee status with plans to resettle them in a third country. Last month, the Post revealed that almost 1,000 troops had been deployed along the Vietnamese border in Ratanakkiri province in the hope of stopping more arrivals.

But the extreme measures have done nothing to abate the influx of asylum seekers.

When asked if any action would be taken against the unregistered Montagnards, Ouk Hay Seyla, head of investigation at the General Immigration Department, yesterday said: “All foreigners will be arrested and deported when they do not have any documents.

“If they know only the Vietnamese language and have only Vietnamese ID, without any legal documents … there is no proof to show that they are Montagnards, not just Vietnamese,” he added.

Hul Sarith, chief of the Refugee Department’s registration office, said he had not received any order to register the asylum seekers.

In a speech last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong defended the government’s inaction, arguing that if it allowed the Montagnards access to its refugee procedures, the numbers pouring in would spiral out of control.

“If we just received them when they enter Cambodia in terms of them being Montagnard refugees, from 500,000 to 1 million Vietnamese could enter,” he said.

Namhong’s remarks came just days before the first refugees to accept resettlement under Cambodia’s controversial deal with Australia arrived in the Kingdom.


  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all