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

  • 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