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Cambodia: camp looted and destroyed

Briefing notes

Cambodia: camp looted and destroyed

16 April 2002

UNHCR is concerned over the destruction and looting of UNHCR property in Cambodia's Mondulkiri refugee camp, which until Monday morning housed Vietnamese "Montagnard" refugees.

UNHCR staff in the camp said Cambodian officials failed to intervene Monday as local people hauled away items left behind by the Montagnards, who departed for Phnom Penh earlier in the day on their way to resettlement in the United States. The camp, including the UNHCR office, was thoroughly looted and burned to the ground as Cambodian police stood by and watched. Also present were a number of Vietnamese officials. UNHCR staff recognized at least two Vietnamese who had visited the camp earlier this month with relatives of the Montagnards in an apparent effort to intimidate the Montagnard refugees into going back to Viet Nam. One UNHCR worker on Monday was threatened by a man brandishing a knife. UNHCR staff saw local police loading loot onto a truck. UNHCR staff managed to save some office equipment before looters sacked the premises.

The Mondulkiri camp housed several hundred Vietnamese Montagnards who fled Viet Nam's Central Highlands one year ago. The group has now been moved to Phnom Penh and will be resettled in the United States.

(Note: After Tuesday's briefing, a report from UNHCR Cambodia was received in Geneva advising that a second camp - Ratanakiri - was properly dismantled and closed on Tuesday without incident.)