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Six of the 18 ethnic Montagnards pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province
Six of the 18 ethnic Montagnards pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province on Wednesday after fleeing across the border from Vietnam to escape persecution. ADHOC

More patrols in Ratanakkiri

Dozens of police officers and security guards are again trawling Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district in search of 32 Montagnards hiding out in the hope of obtaining UN assistance and safe refuge in Cambodia, according to local villagers assisting them and a rights monitor.

The influx of 18 more Montagnards into the northeastern province from Vietnam on Wednesday, adding to the 14 asylum seekers already in hiding in the province, sparked police patrols in Yatong commune, said a local ethnic Jarai villager who declined to be named for his safety.

“The police and security forces have been inspecting in Lom, Som and Dor villages on Wednesday and yesterday. They are searching in forests, rice fields and farms,” he said.

Provincial police chief Nguon Keurn and his deputy, Chea Bunthoeun, declined to comment. Chhuob Vanarak, the O’Yadav police chief, claimed he was unaware that more Montagnards had arrived or of any police searches.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, confirmed the villager’s report.

According to the villager, the groups of Montagnards are hiding separately. But he said that it had been difficult to find safe hiding places for them given the large numbers now present.

Montagnards are an indigenous group from Vietnam’s central highlands.

The recent group of 18 has claimed they were mistreated by Vietnamese authorities and decided to flee to Cambodia, another Jarai villager said. He said they walked through the jungles for three days without food or water.

“Now we only have rice and salt.… Please, UN, take them soon,” the villager said.

The UN rights office did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

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