Eight ethnic Jarai villagers from Vietnam were arrested and deported by border police in Ratanakkiri province late last week after illegally entering Cambodia.
According to a post on the National Police’s website, a group of seven, aged between 15 and 69, were arrested in the province’s Lom village at around 12pm on Saturday.
“They crossed the border illegally and were sent to Vietnamese Border Army Base 723 in Vietnam,” the post says.
Lar Thuom, Pak Nhai commune deputy police chief, said that the group were not Montagnard asylum seekers but had crossed into Cambodia in search of their neighbour, 60-year-old Romas Yorn, who had gone missing.
According to Thuom, Yorn entered Cambodia on Friday to visit his relatives in Lom village without telling his wife and children. He then got too drunk to return home, so stayed in the village overnight.
“When he disappeared, the families were concerned that he might have been robbed,” Thuom said. “The seven crossed the border in order to find him and the border police forces arrested them because they thought that they were immigrants. But I told them that they are not, so they released them.”
Fourteen Montagnard asylum seekers who have fled alleged persecution in Vietnam in recent weeks remained in hiding yesterday evening.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an ethnic Jarai villager said that many other Montagnard asylum seekers hope to cross the border.