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Montagnard Foundation Media Release – On 1 September 2005 Chea Bun Thoeun, deputy provincial police chief of Rattanakiri province in O’Yadaw district announced that anyone caught assisting Montagnard asylum-seekers in Cambodia will be charged with human trafficking and treated as criminals. This is no idle threat as on 20 July 2005 approximately 100 Montagnard Degar asylum seekers in Phnom Penh were forcibly returned to Vietnam by Cambodian soldiers. It is also common knowledge by NGO’s and relative governments that Vietnamese authorities have long been paying cash bounties to Cambodian police for the arrest and forced return of Montagnard asylum seekers. The situation is getting worse and the UNHCR appears unable and unwilling to protect Montagnards. President of the Montagnard Foundation appeals to the international community to urgently protect these refugees. Mr. Kok Ksor states:

“These threats by Cambodian police is itself in breach of Cambodia ’s obligations to the refugee convention and both the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments are working together to use illegal means to stop refugees from fleeing the persecution in Vietnam . Both Cambodia and Vietnam are in the list of countries where human trafficking of women and children is rampant and these allegations against Montagnard villagers must be flatly rejected by Democratic Governments that continue to support them politically and financially. In the past, the UNHCR has also been accused by Vietnam of human trafficking of Montagnard refugees and its silence today in front of these incredible allegations show that the UNHCR in Cambodia and Vietnam is intimidated and not able to carry out its mandate – which is first to fall the protection of refugees – effectively.

The Montagnard Foundation which represents hundreds of thousands of the indigenous Montagnard Degar people of Vietnam plead for the international community to do something to protect our people who have been fleeing persecution in Vietnam.

I ask the international community for how long can both Vietnam and Cambodia be allowed to disregard human rights so blatantly? I also ask why the UNHCR is unable to protect or freely locate refugees in Rattanakiri and Mondolkiri provinces? By now it is common knowledge that Vietnamese authorities have paid cash bounties to Cambodian police for arresting our people. Our people are suffering and dying and Cambodia and Vietnam continually get away with persecuting us and get rewarded with increased financial assistance by international institutions and democratic governments.”



– The US Government and European Commission to act vigorously and without hesitation to ensure that Montagnard asylum seekers in Cambodia and Vietnam are fully protected from human rights abuses by both the Cambodia and Vietnamese governments.

– The US Government and European Commission investigate to what extent Vietnam and Cambodia are involved in this human trafficking of Montagnards asylum seekers, especially in view of the long reported confirmation of payment of cash rewards to Cambodian police by Vietnamese authorities.

– The US Government and European Commission investigate why the UNHCR is not able to freely fulfill its mission to protect asylum seekers in Cambodia .

– The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mr. António Guterres, urgently review the overall situation of Montagnard refugees in Cambodia and demand the complete co-operation of the Cambodian Government for the respect of the 1951 Refugees Convention, and urge the Government of Vietnam to allow an unfettered and effective presence of its office in the Central highlands of Vietnam, together with other international and foreign agencies and NGOs.

Unless Urgent Action is taken many more Montagnard Degar People will suffer and die.