The Interior Ministry has rejected refugee status to dozens of Montagnards from Vietnam living in Cambodia, saying they will face deportation to their home country, according to an annual report released this week.
Tann Sovichea, head of the refugee department at the General Department of Immigration, said yesterday that the government was waiting to negotiate with its Vietnam counterparts and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to send 29 Montagnards home.
“Those 29 Montagnards have not been granted refugee status because they did not meet requirements as asylum seekers,” Mr Sovichea said, noting he did not know the exact deportation date.
The Montagnards fled Vietnam after being subjected to years of persistent religious and political persecution, according to an earlier report by Human Rights Watch.
According to an annual report from the General Department of Immigration released on Tuesday, 140 Montagnards have sought asylum-seeker status in Cambodia and seven have been granted transfer to a third country.
“Forty-four people volunteered to go back to their homeland and 60 people were sent back and now 29 people remain,” the report noted.
Mr Sovichea said the seven Montagnards granted transfer to a third country were now in the Philippines.
Vivian Tan, a spokesman for UNHCR, did not respond to emails for comment yesterday, but in late October she said the UN Refugee Agency was “advocating with the Cambodian government for the 29 Montagnards with strong asylum claims to be allowed to depart for a third country.”
Soeng Sen Karona, a senior investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said he was concerned that the Montagnards would face further persecution once they were deported.
He noted the government should get guarantees from Vietnam that they will not face any human rights abuses upon their return.
“The relevant parties should have measures in place to ensure that their rights are not violated when they are sent back to their home country,” Mr Sen Karona said.