Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Seven asylees to fly out

Seven asylees to fly out

Montagnards pose with signs calling for help from international groups to stop Cambodia from deporting them to Vietnam.
Montagnards pose with signs calling for help from international groups to stop Cambodia from deporting them to Vietnam. Photo supplied

Seven asylees to fly out

Seven Montagnards who have been deemed refugees by the Cambodian government will soon be flown to the Philippines, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The fate of another 29 – whom the UNHCR has said have well-founded fears of persecution – hangs in the balance after their refugee claims were rejected, a decision UNHCR deemed “a grave error in judgment”.

The UNHCR’s assistant regional representative, Alistair Boulton, yesterday confirmed that the Philippines was “the location of our emergency transit mechanism [but] not the final destination”. He said “traditional resettlement countries are final destination”, but declined to name them, citing the “precariousness of their situation in Cambodia”.

Thirteen Montagnards who were also recognised as refugees after they fled Vietnam through the forests of Ratanakkiri in late 2014 were sent to the Philippines in May last year.

The Montagnards are a mostly Christian mountain ethnic group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands. In 2014 and 2015, hundreds escaped into Cambodia fleeing imprisonment and persecution. The majority have been returned to Vietnam, except for a group of 50 who fled to Thailand earlier this year.

Boulton said the UNHCR was trying to relocate the 29 rejected refugees, despite Cambodian authorities claiming the government has “no right” to transfer them to another country.

“We think the simplest solution consistent with international legal principles is for the Cambodian government to let UNHCR take the individuals out of the country to where they want to go and will be safe. We’ve made and stand by this offer,” Boulton said.

“There is no reason the Refugee Department should insist on the individuals returning against their will to Vietnam. Cambodian law does not require it and international law forbids it where there is a risk to life or freedom on return.”

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson said the 13 flown to the Philippines last year were now on “the glide path to a new life, safe from the persecution they faced in Vietnam”. However, the “fundamental problem” was Cambodia’s failure to recognise that the 29 had similarly strong claims.

“The Cambodian government should recognize that Vietnam is setting them up as the fall guy for Hanoi’s continued poor treatment of the Montangards,” he said via email.

He urged the Cambodian government to allow the 29 to be taken abroad “because this is the right thing to do and it will save them from a big headache with the international community”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon