ICC Note: Sometimes these refugee cases and appeals for asylum are difficult to determine, but it seems there is more than adequate evidence that many of these Montagnards have suffered discrimination and abuse from local authorities in Vietnam – more than just the 13 of 200 or so refugees that have been granted asylum.
By Son Trung, Ratha Visal and Tha Kithya
10/08/2015 Cambodia (Radio Free Asia)
Ethnic Montagnards who have fled Vietnam for Cambodia say they are forced to leave after enduring relentless persecution by authorities in their home country, but regularly face difficulties when they apply for asylum across the border.
About 200 Montagnards have entered Cambodia illegally from Vietnam’s Central Highlands since late last year, claiming they are escaping political and religious discrimination back home, but Cambodian officials said last month that only 13 of them will be granted asylum and the rest deported.
One 40-year-old Montagnard who is currently living in Cambodia told RFA’s Vietnamese Service that he was unable to support his wife and three young children because of regular harassment by authorities in Vietnam, and while it pained him to leave his family on their own, he “had no choice” but to flee.
“If there was no oppression, I would prefer living in Vietnam—I didn’t want to leave my wife, children and my house behind,” he said, adding that he was in a constant state of fear at the time.
“When I arrived in Cambodia, my wife and children were devastated.”
But after crossing the border, the Montagnard—who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity—said he had faced difficulty adjusting to life in Cambodia and could not obtain refugee status.
“I don’t know what to do here,” he said.
“I cry out of fear, but if I return [to Vietnam] the police will continue to monitor me and force me to undergo interrogations. I am scared.”
Authorities in Cambodia maintain that the scores of Montagnards who have crossed into the country from Vietnam are not political or religious refugees, but farmers who have entered the country for economic reasons.
On Wednesday, Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told RFA that the Montagnards who recently entered the country do not meet the conditions of refugee status because “they do not live under oppression in Vietnam or face any threat due to war or political crisis.”