Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnards ‘to be processed’



Montagnards ‘to be processed’

Ethnic Montagnards pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province in 2014 after fleeing across the Vietnam border to escape political persecution. ADHOC
Ethnic Montagnards pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri province in 2014 after fleeing across the Vietnam border to escape political persecution. ADHOC

Montagnards ‘to be processed’

Immigration officials yesterday sought to dial back public remarks by Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, who on Wednesday appeared to tell reporters that the more than 100 Montagnard asylum seekers currently waiting to have their claims assessed would be summarily deported.

Speaking to the press in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Sopheak said that of the Montagnards who had not been granted refugee status, “the majority of them fail [the refugee status test] because they came illegally”, adding that the government would deport them to Vietnam.

“We cannot keep them any longer,” he said.

Yesterday, however, the head of the General Department of Immigration, Sok Phal, insisted that the government was committed to properly assessing the Montagnards' refugee claims, noting that it would “need time” to do so.

“We will start interviews [to find] the true context as to whether they should go back to Vietnam or not, but right now it hasn’t started yet,” he said, adding that he didn’t know when the process would start.

Sopheak himself yesterday maintained he had been misquoted in the press and threatened to “file a complaint”, although a transcript of his comments taken at the scene by a Post reporter matched those published elsewhere.

Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, which works with the asylum seekers, predicted yesterday that assessment interviews would begin sometime in March.

“Some of the people here have strong claims to refugee status and should not be deported,” she said in an email. “To do so would be breaking international law.”

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's cluster cases jump to 259

    The Ministry of Health on February 27 recorded 26 more cases of Covid-19 linked to the February 20 community transmission, bringing the total to 259 in one week. The 26 include three Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. The ministry noted that five of the Chinese