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5 more Montagnards arrive; process lagging

Ethnic Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province
Ethnic Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province earlier this year after they fled to Cambodia to escape political persecution. ADHOC

5 more Montagnards arrive; process lagging

As the government continues to flout its own refugee processing rules, five more Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam have entered the capital in recent days in the hope of having their claims registered, according to the United Nations.

Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said on Wednesday that five more Montagnards, a minority group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, had arrived in Phnom Penh, bringing the total number “currently awaiting registration” to 45.

“We’ve been urging the government to register them as soon as possible and not to refoule them,” she said.

Some of those waiting to be registered have been left in limbo in the capital for more than 100 days, despite the law saying they should be registered within a week.

According to rules stipulated in a 2009 sub-decree, refugee statuses should be determined within a maximum of 112 days of asylum seekers presenting themselves to the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Department.

Kerm Sarin, director of the Refugee Department, yesterday claimed that none of the asylum seekers had attempted to register their claims.

“I have not met them yet, [so] it is has nothing to do with the sub-decree,” he said.

But the UN and rights groups have said repeatedly that efforts have been made – and ignored by officials – to register the asylum seekers.

Since October, dozens of ethnic Jarai Montagnards have fled to Cambodia citing religious and political persecution.

Dozens have been deported, while 13 have so far been granted provisional refugee status after they were escorted to the capital by UN officials late last year.

UNHCR said yesterday that a third-country for resettlement has yet to be found.

Interior Ministry officials have previously threatened that, if this does not happen, they could be deported regardless of their refugee status.

As those in Cambodia look to an uncertain future, efforts are being ramped up to keep any more Montagnards out of the Kingdom.

The Post revealed earlier this month that almost 1,000 Cambodian soldiers have been stationed along the Vietnamese border in Ratanakkiri province in an effort to crack down on the asylum seekers.

One of the soldiers stationed inside the remote province’s sprawling border jungles claimed yesterday that the mission had not yet yielded any results.

“There has been no action,” he said.

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