The Interior Ministry yesterday said that four indigenous Montagnards, who fled to the Kingdom from Vietnam to apply for refugee status, have returned after being informed they do not qualify to be resettled in a third country.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the ministry, said the family of four, who were among several Montagnards who illegally crossed into Cambodia several years ago, went back to Vietnam on Friday.
“The family volunteered to go back to Vietnam,” he said. “They were not forcefully sent back and the UNHCR is aware of the case.”
Keane Shum, spokesman for the Bangkok regional office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, yesterday did not respond to an email for comments, but confirmed to local media that the four had returned to Vietnam. He said they did not qualify for UNCHR refugee status.
On Tuesday, the General Department of Immigration said in a report that out of a total of 140 Montagnards who fled into Cambodia to seek asylum status, only seven qualified as refugees to be transferred to a third country.
“Forty-four of them [including the family] volunteered to go back to their homeland and 60 were sent back,” the report noted. “There are now 29 Montagnards remaining in the Kingdom.”
The report did not elaborate on the fate of the remaining 29.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at rights group Licadho, yesterday expressed concern over the safety of Montagnards who return to Vietnam.
“We are worried about their safety after returning to Vietnam because in the past we have seen that some of them who were from Cambodia were mistreated in Vietnam,” he said.
Mr Sam Ath noted that the Montagnards claim they are persecuted in Vietnam.
Tann Sovichea, director of the General Department of Immigration’s refugee department, yesterday declined to comment.