Assistant High Commissioner's mission to Cambodia and Viet Nam

Briefing Notes, 25 April 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 April 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, is on the first leg of a five-day mission to Cambodia and Viet Nam today, Tuesday. During her mission she is scheduled to meet senior government officials to discuss the framework concerning the Montagnard situation and the reduction of statelessness, as well as meet non-governmental organisations, other UN agencies and staff.

On Wednesday in Viet Nam, a two-day field visit to the Central Highlands is planned to meet local authorities and Montagnard returnees from Cambodia. Feller is then scheduled to travel to the capital Hanoi to meet senior government officials before returning to Geneva over the weekend.

In Hanoi in January 2005, the governments of Cambodia and Viet Nam and UNHCR signed an agreement under which some 750 Montagnards an ethnic minority from Viet Nam's Central Highlands who had arrived in Cambodia claiming religious concerns and land grievances, would either be resettled or returned to Viet Nam as Cambodia said it would not allow the Montagnards to remain in the country. Since the agreement was signed 190 Montagnards have returned to Viet Nam comprising 96 voluntary returnees and 94 rejected asylum seekers, while 605 have been resettled the vast majority to the United States, while 204 Montagnards are under UNHCR's protection in Phnom Penh some of which arrived after the signing of the agreement.