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UN offers protection to Vietnamese Montagnards in Cambodia

ABC Asia Pacific TV / Radio Australia

ABC Asia Pacific – News – UN offers protection to Vietnamese Montagnards in Cambodia

T he United Nations refugee agency has taken 75 Vietnamese Montagnards seeking asylum into its care in Cambodia .

UNHCR spokeswoman Deborah Backus says the 75 are at a site in northeastern Ratanakkiri province under the agency’s protection.

The mostly Christian Montagnards began fleeing to Cambodia after security forces crushed demonstrations in the Central Highlands in 2001 over land rights issues and religious persecution.

About 1,000 have been resettled in the United States , while an unknown number of others were sent back to Vietnam , where rights groups say they faced arrest and harassment for fleeing the country.

In April 2004, thousands again took to the streets, triggering another crackdown, and a second exodus that has seen hundreds of asylum seekers arrive in Cambodia .

Ms Backus says the most recent arrivals are healthy and will be flown to the capital Phnom Penh later in the week.

Last year, 598 Montagnard refugees from Vietnam were resettled, mainly in the United States , as well as Finland and Canada .