A senior refugee department official has said that ethnic Jarai Montagnards fleeing alleged persecution in neighbouring Vietnam need to enter Cambodia via official checkpoints in order to register as asylum seekers on arrival.
General Sok Phal, director general of the General Department of Immigration, made the comments after meeting with British Ambassador Bill Longhurst, who travelled to Ratanakkiri province to meet with a local human rights group last week.
“Illegal immigrants do not cross through international checkpoints, but through illegal checkpoints,” Phal said, adding that his department only monitors the 13 official land crossings and any would-be asylum seekers wishing to enter Cambodia would have to make it to the nearest immigration office to have a chance of registering.
Police deported 45 Montagnard asylum seekers last month, and since then, four of the deportees have reportedly “disappeared” from their village.
Another 13 were officially recognised as refugees by the Ministry of Interior yesterday. At least another 23 are thought to be in Cambodia and seeking asylum.
Phal said 10 asylum seekers in the capital had filed their claims, which are under review.