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ICC Note: In 2015, there have been several attempts by Montagnards fleeing government persecution in Vietnam to seek asylum from the UN Human Rights Commission in Cambodia.  But all such attempts have been thwarted this year by the government of Cambodia, who denies the Montagnards temporary visas.  In 2014, only 13 of 200 such applications were accepted.  Cambodia’s dismal record continues, despite outcries from international NGOs and other experts who maintain that the Vietnamese government has systematically persecuted the Montagnards, a Christian minority.

By AsiaNews reporter

10/02/2015 Cambodia (AsiaNews.it)

The Cambodian authorities have rejected a request for political asylum presented yesterday by a group of nine Montagnards from Vietnam, who had traveled – without detection – up to Phnom Penh to ask for help.

The group arrived in the Cambodian capital on September 30.  On being discovered by the authorities, they were detained by officials of the Ministry of Interior who refused to register their names. Interviewed by Radio Free Asia (RFA) Wan-Hea Lee, the UN High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR), representative in Cambodia said that “the authorities denied them a visa, as has been the case with all others this year.”

The nine Montagnards traveled through the northeastern province of Ratanakiri, in the direction of the capital Phnom Penh; they fear repatriation to Vietnam, where they are victims of “politically motivated persecution”. Even in recent weeks there have been several arrests, and some releases, the members of the ethnic-religious minority by the authorities of Hanoi.

Recently, the Cambodian government imposed a maximum of three months on the UN refugee agency to repatriate all Montagnard Christian asylum seekers who fled Vietnam in recent months. Phnom Penh in fact refuses to grant refugee status to the Christian minority, originally from the central highlands of the country, persecuted by the communist government for its political and confessional allegiance.

Of the more than 200 people who have crossed the border last year, only 13 have received from the refugee status. However, they cannot settle in the country but will have to look for – with the help of the UNHCR – accommodation in a third country.

Already in recent weeks Phnom Penh had implemented the policy of repatriation, with dozens of families pushed back into Northern Vietnam with “military force”; human rights activists and pro associations strongly criticize this decision, which raises more than one question regarding protection and safety of refugees.

International NGOs and experts have repeatedly denounced in the past a “systematic” persecution of the Christian minority by Hanoi, characterized by “arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and other inhuman treatment.”

Local sources said that the repatriation of Montagnards  is “political”, because just last month the government signed an agreement with Australia that opens the door to Rohingya migrants locked up in a temporary reception center in Nauru, in Micronesia.

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