Talks on future of Vietnamese minorities
GENEVA, July 26 (UNHCR) - Viet Nam, Cambodia and UNHCR Thursday began two days of talks in Hanoi to draw up a formal agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of several hundred Vietnamese Montagnard hill tribesmen who recently fled to Cambodia.
Earlier this year 38 Montagnards, who are mainly Catholic and Protestants, were resettled in the United States just weeks after they fled to Cambodia claiming religious persecution and harassment over land disputes. The Montagnards, who number 700,000 among 77 million Vietnamese, often fought on the side of the U.S. during the Viet Nam war and many of their number have already moved to North America.
Hundreds of other hill tribesmen later turned up at the border asking for asylum. UNHCR conducted a screening process and 250 were judged to be refugees. A further 107 were 'screened out' of the asylum process, of whom 72 left camps for unknown destinations with the rest remaining in UNHCR-run facilities inside Cambodia.
UNHCR Regional Representative Jahanshah Assadi reached an agreement in principle with Vietnamese authorities last month for a voluntary repatriation programme and later secured Cambodia's agreement to the project now under final discussion in the Vietnamese capital.