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Government Denies Deporting Seven Asylum Seekers

Montagnards emerge from the forest after having fled from neighbouring Vietnam in Korng village, Ratanakiri province, northeastern Cambodia, 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) from the Vietnamese border, file photo.

The Cambodian government is denying reports it deported seven Montagnard asylum seekers back to Vietnam.

A police official says seven Vietnamese farmers who had illegally entered the country were indeed sent back across the border—but they were not asylum seekers.

“Cambodia respects the refugee conventions that we have signed since 1951,” said Khiet Chantharith, a spokesman for the national police. “But Cambodia also has its own immigration laws that allow the deportation of immigrants.”

Rights workers, however, say the seven deportees were in fact Montagards who had sought political asylum from repression in Vietnam and that the government failed to give them a proper hearing.

Chhay Thay, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said police in the province did not wait before deporting all seven people. Local residents report that they were in fact Montagnards seeking refuge, he added.