Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 17 Montagnards prepare for return to Vietnam

17 Montagnards prepare for return to Vietnam

A group of Montagnard asylum seekers pose with a UNHCR vehicle after being collected in Ratanakkiri late last year. Seventeen Montagnards are due to return to Vietnam today
A group of Montagnard asylum seekers pose with a UNHCR vehicle after being collected in Ratanakkiri late last year. Seventeen Montagnards are due to return to Vietnam today. ADHOC

17 Montagnards prepare for return to Vietnam

More Montagnard asylum seekers prepared to return to Vietnam yesterday after giving up on obtaining refugee status in Phnom Penh, while five Rohingya refugees set off for resettlement in Canada.

Wan-Hea Lee, country representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said 17 Montagnards had “embarked on their return from Phnom Penh” and were due to arrive in Vietnam today.

She added that the asylum seekers had “requested and obtained assistance” from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The group is the latest to voluntarily return home ahead of a government-imposed deadline that would see them deported if they remain in the country after February 6.

Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, said the motivations for the repatriation varied. “Some of them miss their family a lot, [and] some of them probably did not have a very strong case,” she said.

Coghlan added that the opportunity to return with assistance from UNHCR – which has received assurances from Vietnam that returnees will not be mistreated – was better than the alternative of being forced back.

UNHCR is “going to check on how they’re received back there and double check on the people who went back before,” she said.

Over the past year, hundreds of Montagnards – a predominantly Christian minority group from Vietnam’s central highlands – have fled to Cambodia citing religious and political persecution.

So far, just 13 have been registered as refugees, while dozens have been deported and many more left in limbo in Phnom Penh as the government refuses to register their claims.

Coghlan said 199 Montagnard refugees and asylum seekers remain in Cambodia.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached yesterday, while UNHCR did not respond to requests for comment.

As the 17 Montagnards set off on their return, a group of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar left the Kingdom.

“Five Rohingyas have left for Canada . . . They applied for private sponsorship and they’ve been accepted,” said Coghlan.

Speaking to the Post last year, one of the group, a roti seller who arrived in 2010, spoke of his struggle for basic rights and his dream of finding a new home.

“How can I think about the future when I have to think about where my food will come from next? I want to find a better life,” he said.

Additional reporting by Phak Seangly

MOST VIEWED

  • South Korea’s first lady brings hope to ill boy

    South Korea’s first lady Kim Keon-hee – wife of current president of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol – met with a 14-year-boy with congenital heart disease during her trip to the Kingdom for the ASEAN Summit. After their meeting it was announced that the

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol