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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Refugee limbo: Montagnard mission still languishing

Refugee limbo: Montagnard mission still languishing

UN officials are still being blocked by provincial authorities from visiting a group of 13 desperate Montagnard asylum seekers hiding in the jungles of Ratanakkiri, more than a week after officials travelled to the northeastern province for a second time.

Provincial authorities have denied a joint delegation of UN and Immigration Department officials access to the group, citing the need for letters of permission from the central government in order to work with them.

Chhay Thy of rights group Adhoc said the asylum seekers were asking the UN to defy the government, as they believe police are trying to find and deport them first. “They want UN officials to come alone without the authorities. They are in need of the UN’s help because they are facing food shortages and disease,” he said.

When asked yesterday why the UN needed government permission to meet the group, Wan-Hea Lee, the UN rights representative, suggested “the question should be posed to the [government] authorities who claim it is needed”.

“For OHCHR, it is a practical matter. We did not wish to place them at risk of arrest or refoulement.”

Neither the Ministry of Interior nor the provincial governor could be reached yesterday.

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