Cambodia: first repatriation from Sisaket province

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A group of 395 returnees left the Phu Noi camp today for the UNHCR Transit Centre in Sisophon, Cambodia, before being repatriated to their final destination in Mondulkiri in the east of that country. This is the first organized repatriation of refugees from the camps in Sisaket province which hosts 15,000 of the 35,000 Cambodian refugees in Thailand.

At the same time, an increasing number of Cambodian refugees living in Phu Noi camp in Sisaket Province in Thailand have expressed the wish to repatriate to Eastern provinces of Cambodia, and not to Anlong Veng, the former Khmer Rouge stronghold where they had lived before coming to Thailand.

UNHCR has sent a staff member to the Eastern Provinces of Cambodia to assess how to bring returnees to these remote areas. It seems that a significant number of refugees originate from Eastern Cambodia. Their families fled first to Phnom Penh during the war in the early 1970s, and then were pushed toward Western Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years.

Many refugees want to escape pressures exerted by some Khmer Rouge refugee leaders in Sisaket camp, who try to have male refugees repatriate to Anlong Veng for reasons which are not clear.