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Montagnards near Cambodia border approach UNHCR for assistance


Montagnards near Cambodia border approach UNHCR for assistance

Forty-two hilltribe minorities originating from Viet Nam's Central Highlands have emerged from hiding in north-eastern Cambodia to seek help from a UNHCR-government team visiting the border region. As many as 160 more could follow, say NGOs.
19 July 2004

BANLUNG, Cambodia, July 19 (UNHCR) - Dozens of desperate Vietnamese Montagnards have come out of the remote jungles of north-eastern Cambodia to seek assistance from a UNHCR team currently visiting the border region.

On Sunday, a team from the UN refugee agency, non-governmental organisation Adhoc and the Cambodian Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs left Banlung in the Ratanakiri province of north-eastern Cambodia to investigate reports of Vietnamese hilltribe minorities hiding in the jungle bordering Viet Nam.

This was the first time UNHCR had been granted access to the border area after months of negotiations with the provincial authorities.

When they heard about the visiting team, 42 Montagnards emerged from the jungle around Som Troak village in Pak Nhai commune, O Ya Daw district. The majority were men and all of them originated from Viet Nam's Gia Lai province, which borders Cambodia.

The asylum seekers were registered and provided with food, accommodation and other basic necessities in Banlung.

According to Adhoc and Human Rights Watch, there could be as many as 160 more Montagnards in the jungle who wish to approach UNHCR for help. The refugee agency hopes to locate them through further border missions with the authorities. The asylum seekers will eventually be transferred to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where they will undergo formal refugee status determination amid attempts to find solutions for them.

The mainly Christian Montagnards fled Viet Nam's Central Highlands after a government crackdown on protests against land confiscation and religious persecution in April. They followed an earlier group of more than 1,000 who fled for Cambodia after similar protests in February 2001.