Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

A Montagnard asylum seeker steps into a police vehicle yesterday as immigration police officials organise his deportation.
A Montagnard asylum seeker steps into a police vehicle yesterday as immigration police officials organise his deportation. Photo supplied

Montagnard asylum seeker set to be forcibly deported

Immigration police are preparing to forcibly deport a Montagnard asylum seeker, who was yesterday taken away by officers from the Phnom Penh guesthouse where an estimated 38 members of the ethnic minority are now left to await their fate.

The man, an ethnic Ede in his late 30s, was collected in a van by officials from the General Department of Immigration yesterday afternoon, according to photos obtained by The Post.

Uk Hai Seila, head of investigations at the department, confirmed his team was preparing to deport the man after his appeal against a decision to reject his bid for asylum was turned down.

“He was interviewed, but failed, so my officials took him to my department to deport him after he gets a passport from the Vietnamese Embassy,” Hai Seila said, adding the case would be reported to the embassy today.

Head of the Refugee Department Tan Sokvichea declined yesterday to discuss the case.

Beginning in 2014, hundreds of Montagnards – a mostly Christian ethnic minority from Vietnam’s mountainous Central Highlands – fled to Cambodia, complaining of religious and political persecution by Vietnamese authorities.

Thirteen of the first arrivals were recognised as refugees and later sent to the Philippines. Dozens more were summarily deported or left in limbo until the Cambodian government agreed to register more than 100 as asylum seekers last year.

Only three of those registered have been granted refugee status, and the deportation will mark the first time that one of those registered has been sent back against their will.

Scores have agreed to “voluntarily” return to their homes in Vietnam’s Central Highlands with assistance from the UN after their applications were rejected, though the account of one man repatriated in a group of 13 last week called into question the voluntary nature of the arrangement.

In an email yesterday, Vivian Tan, regional spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the agency “firmly believes that no refugee or asylum-seeker should be pressured to return against their will”.

Reiterating a previous comment, she explained that, though UNHCR was not usually involved with rejected asylum cases, the Montagnards in Cambodia whose refugee bids failed could choose to return with UNHCR assistance.

But, if not, “as foreigners on Cambodian soil, they will be subject to Cambodian law as defined by the Cambodian authorities”.

Sister Denise Coghlan, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Cambodia, which has been assisting the Montagnards, said she was saddened by the moves to deport the asylum seeker.

“With recent reports on the lack of religious freedom in the world, one feels very sorry for this poor man returning to a place where he believes he doesn’t have religious freedom,” Coghlan said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the