US Ambassador William Todd has spoken out about ongoing arrivals of Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam, saying that the international community is concerned about their treatment and urging the government to give the fleeing Christian minority unimpeded access to “internationally accepted asylum procedures”.
At least 32 asylum seekers are believed to be hiding out in the jungles of Ratanakkiri province as authorities search for them.
Since December, 20 Montagnards have made it to Phnom Penh to apply for asylum, but the Interior Ministry has said that even if they are found to be genuine refugees, they will be deported back to Vietnam if a third country cannot be found for resettlement.
Using his weekly column published Sundays in the Rasmey Kampuchea newspaper and CEN, Todd said the situation was “an opportunity” for the government to shows its commitment to human rights.
“Cambodia can do this by ensuring the consistent application of the rule of law and working with the United Nations and civil society to reach those in need,” he wrote, citing the Kingdom’s obligations to register asylum seekers and provide fair status determinations under the UN refugee convention.
“Asylum seekers should not be turned away by any authority before this is done.”
Foreign Ministry and other government spokespeople could not be reached for comment yesterday.