Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asylum seekers returned to Vietnam



Asylum seekers returned to Vietnam

Montagnard refugees sit at a house in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district last year after fleeing political persecution in Vietnam.
Montagnard refugees sit at a house in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district last year after fleeing political persecution in Vietnam. Hong Menea

Asylum seekers returned to Vietnam

Thirteen Montagnards were returned to Vietnam on Monday having failed or withdrawn their applications for asylum, while more look set to follow after a government official yesterday said the remaining 156 Montagnard asylum seekers had all been assessed and the “majority” had not qualified as refugees.

The departing group, which included two families with children, according to a refugee advocate, was escorted to O’Yadav border checkpoint in Ratanakkiri province by staff from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has been given assurances they will not be mistreated, said UNHCR regional spokesman Vivian Tan.

They were received by Vietnamese immigration police, who will take them back to their homes in Vietnam’s central highlands.“

A total of 13 Montagnards returned voluntarily to Viet Nam from Cambodia on Monday, 19 December,” Tan said by email.

“They include asylum-seekers whose cases had received negative decisions or who had decided to withdraw their applications … UNHCR will visit them after their return as agreed with the Vietnamese authorities.”

Hundreds of Montagnards, a predominately Christian ethnic group, fled to Cambodia last year, claiming they faced political and religious persecution. The influx followed the granting of refugee status for 13 Montagnards, who have since been sent to Manila.

After threatening to deport the subsequent arrivals, the government belatedly agreed in January to register and process the group as asylum seekers.

Some, however, returned to Vietnam voluntarily. Another group of 16 were repatriated in July after their claims were rejected or withdrawn.

Tan said the UN had monitored some of the Interior Ministry’s refugee department’s interviews with the Montagnards and had no objections to the decisions so far.

Likewise, sister Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, which has supported the Montagnards, said the recent returnees – including a family who had appealed, but been rejected – appeared to have been granted due process.

“It seems to me that the decisions were pretty fair, but time will tell what will happen to them,” Coghlan said.

“It leaves 156 here; we haven’t got any more decisions. No one else knows their decisions, either yes or no.”

Speaking yesterday, Mom Sophanarith, deputy director of the Refugee Department, said the department had this month finished assessing the rest of the Montagnards in Phnom Penh.

Though declining to give specifics, he said most did not meet the criteria for refugee status.

“I could not tell how many will pass and fail, but the majority of them, almost all, don’t have anything remarkable to make them eligible for refugee status,” Sophanarith said.

“They were not persecuted [in Vietnam]. They hoped to get access to a third country because they want to have better lives,” he said. “They just want to live in the US or France … They’re too lazy to work and want to be fed.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration