Viet Nam/Cambodia: meeting on Montagnards
Representatives of Viet Nam, Cambodia and UNHCR are scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh on Monday and Tuesday in a continuing effort to find a solution for some 1,000 ethnic Vietnamese, known as the Montagnards, who fled to Cambodia last year. A first round of talks was held in Hanoi last July, but while most issues were resolved, there was still no agreement on the key point of UNHCR access to the home areas of the Montagnards in Viet Nam's Central Highlands. We are optimistic that the meeting next week will come up with a framework for the safe and dignified return of these Vietnamese. UNHCR has been in close contact with the two governments and has indicated to them that any repatriation must be voluntary and in accordance with UNHCR principles governing returns, including UNHCR access to areas of origin so we can monitor the reintegration of the returnees. We have been asked by some of you about reports of continuing harassment and persecution of the Montagnards in the Central Highlands. We have no first-hand information from the area. We have also been asked about the reported expulsions of Vietnamese asylum seekers, particularly an incident in late December when 167 Vietnamese were sent back to Viet Nam. In general, the Cambodians have treated the asylum seekers well, but we hope that when an agreement is reached the problem of expulsions will be resolved as well.