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(AsiaNews/SCMP) – Prime Minister Hun Sen will consider sending troops into Cambodia’s forested northeast to root out more than 200 Montagnards, a Christian minority in Vietnam, who have fled country’s central highlands after police put down protests seeking land and religious rights, in April. The refugees have been living off tubers, rainwater in Cambodia ‘s malaria-ridden jungles for months. Local hill tribe sources have told The Cambodia Daily that up to 250 Montagnards may be hiding in the border region and that several have fallen seriously ill. Groups of the Montagnards have been photographed and interviewed by reporters from the English-language The Cambodia Daily newspaper, but the Hun Sen government has alternately denied their existence, called them illegal immigrants or accused them of plotting a separatist movement. “Crossing the border to Cambodia is not an option for the refugees,” the New York-based agency said. “Both Cambodia and Vietnam have intensified the security presence along the border and Cambodia continues to forcibly return any Montagnard asylum seekers who cross the border.” The Vietnamese government has denied the existence of Montagnard refugees and barred international agencies and reporters from entering the central highlands at the time of the protests.