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

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Hun Sen: Lakes filled in for national developments

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced continued operations to fill some lakes in Phnom Penh to create land for developments, though he is against the unrelated practice of damming rivers or blocking waterways. Speaking at the inauguration of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport

  • Koh Preus upgrades 70% complete

    Initial construction of a nearly $30 million tourism infrastructure project on Preah Sihanouk province’s Koh Preus Island is “about 70 per cent complete”, according to an official with the developer. Heng Thou, construction site manager of Angela Real Estate Co Ltd (ARE), told The Post that

  • Local media loses a giant, and The Post a great friend

    Cheang Sokha, a gifted and streetwise reporter who rose to the highest ranks of Cambodian media and was beloved for his sharp intelligence, world-class humour and endless generosity, died on Friday in his hometown of Phnom Penh. He was 42. His wife, Sok Sophorn, said he

  • Cambodia, India agree to start direct flights, tourism exchanges

    Cambodia and India have agreed to start direct flight connections and promote closer tourism exchanges and cooperation in all areas after the Covid-19 saga comes to a close. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Cambodian Minister of Tourism Thong Khon and newly-minted Indian