Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

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

Montagnard numbers swell in Phnom Penh

More Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam arrived in Phnom Penh over the weekend, bringing the number waiting to apply for refugee status to 109, according to the United Nations.

Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), said the Montagnards – an indigenous group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands – were “awaiting registration” by the Interior Ministry’s Refugee Department.

Since October, well over 100 Montagnards have fled to the Kingdom, citing religious and political persecution.

Dozens have been deported without due process and, so far, just 13 have been granted provisional refugee status with plans to resettle them in a third country. Last month, the Post revealed that almost 1,000 troops had been deployed along the Vietnamese border in Ratanakkiri province in the hope of stopping more arrivals.

But the extreme measures have done nothing to abate the influx of asylum seekers.

When asked if any action would be taken against the unregistered Montagnards, Ouk Hay Seyla, head of investigation at the General Immigration Department, yesterday said: “All foreigners will be arrested and deported when they do not have any documents.

“If they know only the Vietnamese language and have only Vietnamese ID, without any legal documents … there is no proof to show that they are Montagnards, not just Vietnamese,” he added.

Hul Sarith, chief of the Refugee Department’s registration office, said he had not received any order to register the asylum seekers.

In a speech last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong defended the government’s inaction, arguing that if it allowed the Montagnards access to its refugee procedures, the numbers pouring in would spiral out of control.

“If we just received them when they enter Cambodia in terms of them being Montagnard refugees, from 500,000 to 1 million Vietnamese could enter,” he said.

Namhong’s remarks came just days before the first refugees to accept resettlement under Cambodia’s controversial deal with Australia arrived in the Kingdom.

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,