Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Asylees set for deportation

Asylees set for deportation

The rejected 29 Montagnards pose with signs reading "please help us", calling on international groups to stop Cambodia deporting them to Vietnam, where they face prison and persecution.
The rejected 29 Montagnards pose with signs reading "please help us", calling on international groups to stop Cambodia deporting them to Vietnam, where they face prison and persecution. Photo supplied

Asylees set for deportation

Twenty-nine Montagnards with compelling refugee claims are set to be deported to Vietnam in just over 10 days, according to the refugee department, leaving them in fear of imprisonment and persecution.

The 29 – including seven children – are among 36 Montagnards that the UN’s refugee body, the UNHCR, is seeking to relocate to a safe third country based on the seriousness of their claims.

On Thursday the 29 Montagnards – a mostly Christian ethnic minority from Vietnam’s Central Highlands – were informed that their applications had been rejected and they would be deported in 15 days, around September 22, said asylum seeker Y Rin Kpa, 47.

“I am very scared and very worried,” he said, adding that he feared reprisals from Vietnamese authorities. “They would not stop; they would continue to punish me.”

Kpa said he spent nearly 10 years in a Vietnamese prison, from 2001 to 2010, after taking part in a religious freedom demonstration.

After six months in Daklak prison – where he said he was brutally beaten by prison guards until his head bled – he was given a secret one-day trial before spending a decade behind bars.

“They did not treat us fairly . . . They took our lands, they do not allow us to worship, they really push us down and oppress us,” he said.

He arrived in Cambodia with his wife on June 7, 2015, and has been awaiting a verdict on his refugee status ever since.

“Before I left, they summoned me to the police station, and they said that if you ever run away, like to Cambodia, and if we get you back, we’ll put you in jail for 20 years,” Kpa said.

Montagnards prepare to leave as Cambodian authorities deport them to Vietnam last month from Phnom Penh.
Montagnards prepare to leave as Cambodian authorities deport them to Vietnam last month from Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

“I am begging to the UN to intervene and help us so we can become refugees,” he added.

“I’m asking the international organisations, I’m asking all the human rights organisations and everyone around the world to talk to the Cambodian government so they will stop what they are doing.”

The UNHCR said yesterday that they still hoped the government would allow the remaining 29 to be moved to another country.

UNHCR spokesman Alistair Boulton said an appeal had been made to Interior Ministry Secretary of State Ouk Kim Lek.

“[W]e have written to the Secretary of State noting that while Cambodian law requires them to leave Cambodia, it does not require them to return to their country of origin and we are willing to facilitate their departure to a country to which they are willing to go and which is willing to accept them,” he said in an email.

Kim Lek referred all questions to Immigration Department head Sok Phal, who in turn referred questions to Refugee Department Director Tan Sovichea, who confirmed the impending return.

“We cannot grant them refugee status, so they will need to return to Vietnam,” he said, stressing the decision was up to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, not the UN.

“Why does the UNHCR want to take these 29 to a third country? In the sub-decree, UNHCR has no right to grant refugee status.”

He said while he could not answer for Kheng, he found it unlikely he would change his mind.

Additional reporting by Phak Seangly

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol