Subscribe Search

Search form

Worries over asylum seekers

Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri
Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri last month after they fled to Cambodia to escape political persecution. ADHOC

Worries over asylum seekers

Dozens of Montagnard asylum seekers who left the jungles of Ratanakkiri province yesterday morning in a bid to reach Phnom Penh and possible UN help have not been heard from since, according to a rights activist and members of a local community that was assisting them.

Chhay Thy, a provincial monitor for rights group Adhoc, said last night that there had been no communication with the 36 Montagnards since they departed in an overcrowded van yesterday morning from O’Yadav district, raising fears that they have been arrested.

“The 36 includes three females. One ethnic Jarai villager was guiding the way, but we have lost contact with them. We are concerned about their safety on the way,” Thy said yesterday evening.

UN officials that requested anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to the media said the group had not been met in Phnom Penh.

But senior police officials in Ratanakkiri and Mondulkiri provinces said they had made no arrests of Montagnards.

Nine Montagnards reportedly seeking asylum in the Kingdom have been deported this month back to Vietnam by authorities in what rights groups say is a violation of international law.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak yesterday insisted that anyone claiming to be a Montagnard in Ratanakkiri was telling a lie. He said they were illegal immigrants.

“There are no Montagnards [asylum seekers in Cambodia]. Thousands of them were taken by the US in 2000 and 2001.… Do not believe that. If they existed, the US would” give them asylum, he said. “[There will be] no refugee camp in Cambodia.”

But Thy of Adhoc implored the government to at least interview those claiming asylum before deporting them.

Montagnards, a mostly Christian ethnic minority, face religious and political persecution in Vietnam, according to Human Rights Watch.


  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • American ‘fugitive’ arrested in Cambodia outside of US Embassy

    An American citizen was arrested on request by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, according to Cambodian police. Major General Uk Hei Sela, chief of investigations at the Department of Immigration, identified the man as American Jan Sterling Hagen, and said he was

  • One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

    Updated: 5:20pm, Friday 16 March 2018 An Australian tourist and a Cambodian soldier were killed in an explosion on Thursday afternoon at an army base in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province. The Australian, whom the government initially identified as a technical demining expert in his 40s, and

  • Peeling back layers of prehistory in Battambang

    When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50. He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which