Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard meet held up

Montagnard meet held up

Montagnard meet held up

UN representatives travelled yesterday to Ratanakkiri province to “assess the situation” of a group of Montagnards who have been seeking shelter in the Kingdom in recent weeks, but officials apparently refused to meet with them.

Four UN representatives from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) arrived in the province yesterday afternoon.

Their visit comes amid mounting criticism over the government’s response to the 13 Christian Montagnards who have been hiding in the forests since fleeing alleged religious persecution in Vietnam.

Chhay Thy, a provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc who met with the UN yesterday, said their attempt to meet with the provincial governor had been rejected.

“They wanted to meet with the governor and the police chief. The governor rejected [the proposal],” he said. “They will try to seek cooperation from the authorities and the government to help the Montagnards.”

Thy added that the UN is “willing to meet the Montagnards, but there is no agreement or cooperation from the authorities or the government yet”.

“They will not meet them if they do not have cooperation,” he said.

Provincial Governor Thong Savon could not be reached yesterday, while provincial police chief Nhuong Koeun said he was unaware of the visit and was occupied with other duties.

Despite calls from the UN to allow the group to pursue refugee claims, Koeun said that, if found, they would be deported.

“In legal terms they are illegal immigrants. We [only] consider them as asylum seekers in cases when they escape from a big war,” he explained.

Wan-Hea Lee, OHCHR country representative, and Vivian Tan, UNHCR regional press officer, confirmed the visit but did not respond to questions about the authorities’ refusal to meet.

While the government is responsible for processing asylum claims, “as always, UNHCR is prepared to provide technical support to the Refugee Department as needed”, Tan said.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,