Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

A Montagnard asylum seeker steps into a police vehicle yesterday as immigration police officials organise his deportation.
A Montagnard asylum seeker steps into a police vehicle yesterday as immigration police officials organise his deportation. Photo supplied

Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

Immigration police are preparing to forcibly deport a Montagnard asylum seeker, who was yesterday taken away by officers from the Phnom Penh guesthouse where an estimated 38 members of the ethnic minority are now left to await their fate.

The man, an ethnic Ede in his late 30s, was collected in a van by officials from the General Department of Immigration yesterday afternoon, according to photos obtained by The Post.

Uk Hai Seila, head of investigations at the department, confirmed his team was preparing to deport the man after his appeal against a decision to reject his bid for asylum was turned down.

“He was interviewed, but failed, so my officials took him to my department to deport him after he gets a passport from the Vietnamese Embassy,” Hai Seila said, adding the case would be reported to the embassy today.

Head of the Refugee Department Tan Sokvichea declined yesterday to discuss the case.

Beginning in 2014, hundreds of Montagnards – a mostly Christian ethnic minority from Vietnam’s mountainous Central Highlands – fled to Cambodia, complaining of religious and political persecution by Vietnamese authorities.

Thirteen of the first arrivals were recognised as refugees and later sent to the Philippines. Dozens more were summarily deported or left in limbo until the Cambodian government agreed to register more than 100 as asylum seekers last year.

Only three of those registered have been granted refugee status, and the deportation will mark the first time that one of those registered has been sent back against their will.

Scores have agreed to “voluntarily” return to their homes in Vietnam’s Central Highlands with assistance from the UN after their applications were rejected, though the account of one man repatriated in a group of 13 last week called into question the voluntary nature of the arrangement.

In an email yesterday, Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the agency “firmly believes that no refugee or asylum-seeker should be pressured to return against their will”.

Reiterating a previous comment, she explained that, though UNHCR was not usually involved with rejected asylum cases, the Montagnards in Cambodia whose refugee bids failed could choose to return with UNHCR assistance.

But, if not, “as foreigners on Cambodian soil, they will be subject to Cambodian law as defined by the Cambodian authorities”.

Sister Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, which has been assisting the Montagnards, said she was saddened by the moves to deport the asylum seeker.

“With recent reports on the lack of religious freedom in the world, one feels very sorry for this poor man returning to a place where he believes he doesn’t have religious freedom,” Coghlan said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused