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UN Agency Concerned Over More Montagnard Asylum Seekers


Montagnard hill tribesmen walk towards the main road after emerging from dense forest 70 km (43 miles) northeast of Ban Lung, located in Cambodia's northeastern province of Ratanakiri July 22, 2004. (Reuters)

Montagnard hill tribesmen walk towards the main road after emerging from dense forest 70 km (43 miles) northeast of Ban Lung, located in Cambodia's northeastern province of Ratanakiri July 22, 2004. (Reuters)

UN officials say they remain concerned over the wellbeing of Vietnamese Montagnard asylum seekers who flee to Cambodia, including a new group reportedly in hiding near the border.

Wan Hea Lee, country representative for the UN rights office in Cambodia, said in an email Friday her agency “is very concerned about Cambodia’s compliance with its obligations under international refugee and human rights law, as we are for the well-being of those still in Ratanakkiri (province).”

In March, Cambodia recognized the asylum status of 13 Montagnards, who claim they face political and religious persecution in Vietnam. About 40 others are reportedly waiting in Phnom Penh to be granted status.

But an unknown number of others have been caught at the border and turned back in recent months, contravening international law and rights norms.

Rights workers say they know of at least 23 more asylum seekers currently in hiding in the remote province.

Chhay Thy, Ratanakkiri coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, told VOA Khmer the latest group is awaiting support from the UN and rights groups.

Cambodian authorities have deployed an estimated 1,000 extra personnel along the border since April, he said, reportedly “to prevent illegal logging and illegal refugees.”

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the deployment was not related to asylum seekers but for standard border security.

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