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

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in

  • No ‘Crown Prince’ exists to buy France football club: ministry

    The Ministry of the Royal Palace has denied media reports that a Cambodian “Crown Prince” had purchased the AS Saint Etienne football club of France’s top-flight LIGUE 1 at the cost of €100 million ($117 million). In a press statement on September 19, the ministry stressed that Cambodia