Military Build-Up Seen Along Northeastern Borders

Nov Sivutha and Donald Lee / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
A view of the Ratanakiri countryside. ( Photo: Lukas Bergstrom)

PHNOM PENH,  (Khmer Times) – A local human rights claims that  there is an alarming increase in military personnel along the borders to Laos and Vietnam, in the provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri.

Adhoc has found that soldiers have amassed in “eleven separate border points alongside the Lao border to the Vietnam border.” The group also found military personnel traveling along Road 78 that leads the Le Thanh – OÝadao border crossing to Vietnam.

“There are nearly a hundred soldiers at each point,” said Chhay Thi, the provincial coordinator for Adhoc.

The group believes the soldiers are being deployed at the border to control illegal immigration into Cambodia and illegal logging.

“I’ve observed the deployment of soldiers and believe it’s in response to recent Vietnamese migrants – Montagnards and [economic] migrants – entering the country and are involved in illegal logging,” he said.
 
Provincial Authorities Refute
 
Provincial authorities actively denied any build-up of military security forces on the border.

“I tell you that the province has not deployed soldiers; there are only border police to secure the border,” Ratanakiri provincial spokesman Moeung Sinath told Khmer Times.

The spokesman also reiterated past statements on his belief that there were no Montagnard refugees. “There are no Montagard refugees, there are only Vietnamese [nationals] who are crossing the border illegally.”

“We take action and apprehend them using the existing laws of immigration and send them back to Vietnam.”

Refugees In Hiding
 
Earlier this month, it was confirmed that 11 new Montagnard refugees entered Ratanakiri province from Vietnam. Many have reached Phnom Penh but have been unable to go through the refugee registration process.

”There are 40 asylum seekers in Phnom Penh unable to register for the asylum procedure, in addition to the 13 recognized refugees. We cannot state with precision how many remain in Ratanakiri,” said Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“Recent [Montagnard refugee] arrivals are facing more acute circumstances,” Ms. Lee told Khmer Times. “Ever since that successful intervention [by the UN] in December, the search for them [by local authorities] has been intensified.”

“It’s happening at the levels of local villages: They are coming out with dogs, they come out with arms,” she said of the Cambodian police search teams. “[Refugees] have crossed over now with women and children. So there’s urgency.” 

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