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ICC Note: The Cambodian government recognizes refugee status of seven Montagnard while the fate of the remaining 29 remains unknown. UNHCR explained that the seven Montagnards will be sent to Philippines where they will join thirteen others who were sent there in May last year. However, it is not clear whether the remaining 29 will be deported back to Vietnam. UNHCR hopes that Cambodia will allow them to take the 29 Montagnards to a safe third country. Montagnards are a Christian ethnic minority who face serious persecution and imprisonment in Vietnam. If sent back, they might be oppressed again.

09/28/2017 Cambodia (Phnom Penh Post) –Seven Montagnards recognised as refugees by Cambodia will be sent to the Philippines on Friday, according to Immigration Department Chief Sok Phal, although the fates of another 29 asylum seekers with well-founded fears of persecution back in Vietnam hang in the balance.

The seven will be joining 13 Montagnard refugees sent in May last year to the Philippines, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), before they will be sent to another unnamed country for resettlement.

UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said currently “the 13 remain where they are as longer-term solutions are sought”, but declined to comment further as “the concerned countries have requested discretion on the issue”.

Uk Hai Sela, head of immigration investigations at the Ministry of Interior, yesterday said he had not received any update regarding the planned deportation of the 29 Montagnards – many of whom have claimed they were jailed in Vietnam.

“I was asking about the Montagnard situation this morning, not [specifically] about the 29, but I have had no response yet,” he said.

“I asked Refugee [Department] Director General Tan Sovichea. He said it is still complicated, and not approved from the director,” Hai Sela added, referring to Sok Phal.

Phal, reached yesterday, confirmed the seven Montagnards would be sent to the Philippines on Friday, but when asked about the 29 asylum seekers still in limbo, he said “now I am busy” before hanging up.

The UNHCR late last week said it remained “hopeful” the Cambodian authorities would allow them to take the 29 to a safe third country, rather than forcibly deporting them to Vietnam, which could breach Cambodia’s non-refoulement obligations under the Refugee Convention.

Last week several Montagnards spoke candidly to The Post about the mistreatment they endured at the hands of Vietnamese authorities, who they said seized their land, forbade them from worshipping Christianity, and jailed and beat them.

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