ICC Note: Christian Montagnards who were deported back to Vietnam by Cambodian authorities face verbal attacks, interrogation, and humiliation. Some Montagnard returnees explain that the Vietnamese government views them as criminals. Moreover, some of them are even forced to give confession on state television apologizing for fleeing. The situation for the vast majority of Montagnards who are currently in Cambodia does not look promising as the Cambodian government is not willing to recognize them as refugees and is reluctant to work with UNHCR. Cambodia has made a total mockery of its claims that it will protect these refugees, leaving its reputation in tatters.
10/04/2017 Cambodia (UCA News) – Exasperated after violent interrogations and round-the-clock intimidation at the hands of the Vietnamese government, Christian Montagnard Y-Man Eban escaped into the forests of eastern Cambodia on July 7, 2015.
“The reason I ran away from my country was because the Vietnamese police interrogated me four or five times and put me in jail for a week. They beat me a lot,” Eban, 30, said from Dak Lak province.
When asked why he was arrested, Eban said it was because he sought “the freedom and independence for Dega people.”
Eban was one of more than 300 Montagnard Christians, the indigenous peoples of the Vietnamese Central Highlands, also known as Dega, who three years ago started fleeing into Cambodia with tales of oppression at the hands of the Hanoi government. It was the first exodus in around a decade, when thousands fled amid crackdowns on protests in 2001 and 2004.
Persecuted for decades due to reasons including their support for America in the Vietnam War and their faith, there have been widespread accusations of human rights abuses and land grabs in the rolling hills of the Montagnards’ homeland.
Virtually all have since been returned by the Cambodian authorities and just 20 have been granted refugee status. Eban said the persecution and surveillance back in the Central Highlands had continued unabated since he was sent back in October 2015 after being denied asylum.
“Since I came back to Vietnam, the authorities have viewed me as a criminal,” Eban said.
He said he didn’t feel secure back home and was anxious. Although Eban had not been physically abused, he said he had been verbally attacked. “They despise us, they hate us so much. I can see it in their eyes whenever they come to my house,” he said.
Recent returnees to the Central Highlands have spoken of being subjected to renewed spying and intimidation, while others have been forced to give confessions on state television apologizing for fleeing while claiming they were sold false promises by the United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races (FULRO) — a Montagnard separatist group that laid down arms in 1992.
Eban said he had been regularly harassed by Vietnamese authorities, who also warned him to stay away from the defunct separatists.