Cambodia Extends Deportation Deadline For Asylum-seeking Montagnards

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A group of Montagnards (foreground) meets with a United Nations team after emerging from their hideout in northeastern Cambodia's Ratanakiri province, Dec. 20, 2014.
A group of Montagnards (foreground) meets with a United Nations team after emerging from their hideout in northeastern Cambodia's Ratanakiri province, Dec. 20, 2014.
AFP Photo/Adhoc

The Cambodian government has extended the deadline for the deportation of 13 ethnic Montagnard Christians who have obtained refugee status in the Southeast Asian nation if they do not find a third country in which to permanently settle by next January, prompting criticism from a domestic rights group.

The Montagnards, who fled from their homes in Vietnam’s Central Highlands a year ago to seek refuge in Cambodia from alleged persecution, were granted refugee status in March.

They have been staying in the capital Phnom Penh where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been trying to find them a permanent third country in which to live.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Tuesday following a two-day meeting in Vietnam, extending the deadline by three months until Jan. 10 for the UNHCR to find another country for the Montagnards.

The original six-month period ended on Oct. 10 with the UNHCR failing to find a nation that would accept the 13 Montagnards, the statement said.

The government also extended the deadline for 200 other Montagnards in Phnom Penh, whose refugee claims it has refused to process, to return to Vietnam by early next February. Cambodia said last month that they had to return to Vietnam by mid-December or be forcibly repatriated.

The ministry also accused the UNHCR of bringing them into the country illegally so they could seek asylum.

Vivian Tan, the UNHCR’s regional spokesperson, told The Phnom Penh Post that the agency had not violated any laws and was continuing to try to find a third country for the Montagnards.

Suon Bunsak, executive secretary of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, called Cambodia's move a serious violation of its obligation to assist refugees under a government decree.

“Before deporting the Montagnards, the government must comply with its sub-decree to evaluate them first to determine whether they are really [political] refugees or economic immigrants,” he said.  “We must evaluate them accurately before deporting them.”

Cambodian authorities maintain that all the Montagnards who have crossed illegally into the country’s remote northeastern Ratanakiri province from Vietnam have been farmers who have come for economic reasons rather than political refugees.

The ministry said its decision complies with a memorandum of understanding signed by the government, Vietnam and the UN refugee agency in January 2005, which establishes the basis for the resettlement and repatriation of the Montagnards. The document requires the UNHCR to locate a third country for the Montagnards to settle in within six months after they are granted refugee status.

But in making its decision, Cambodia is protecting Vietnam’s reputation because the Montagnards have fled their home country on account of political persecution, Suon Bunsak said.

“The [Montagnard issue] has affected the reputation of Cambodia’s neighbor,” he said, adding that Cambodia has failed to take seriously its obligation to provide protection for the refugees before deporting them.

The UNHCR has assisted scores of Montagnards with trying to obtain refugee status in Cambodia. In other cases, however, local authorities have caught some Montagnards and deported them back to Vietnam, while others have returned home on their own.

Reported by Tha Kitya for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (3)


from Charlotte


The Central Highland of Dega lived in peace.
Ti Krah Ala Čar Dap Ngư Đêga Hdip Hlăm Klei Êđăp Ênang.

We called ourselves the Dega: We lived in peacefully before 1954. Sine God gave birth to the world we, the Dega people have always lived in the same location in the Central Highland, a different part of Vietnam.

The Montagnards refer to all Montagnards as Dega, which is the name that the Rhadé call themselves, an abbreviation of Anak Dega (children of Y-De and H'Ga -- their equivalent of Adam and Eve).

The government of Vietnam has obliged the Dega people to learn and use only the Vietnamese language, which is a national language. The Dega languages are used as unwritten languages or as a language that the government can monitor and more easily assimilate the Dega people.

1. 1955 - 1975, Hanoi and Saigon confiscated all books in Dega language, burned them all and forced the Dega Peoples to study Vietnamese and prohibited them from learning or speaking their own dialects. Today in the Central Highlands many Dega children and students only speak Vietnamese and gradually forget their own dialects.

2. Most elementary schools in villages and hamlets were completely closed since 1975. The existing provincial secondary schools and colleges are often only reserved for Vietnamese students. Because many Dega's have been forced to leave their villages for relocation far away from school, far from the city 20 to 30 miles, the Dega students are poorest in Vietnam since they do not have transportation to commute to the city to attend school. The Dega people living in these remote areas are not being given a chance at life or education.

3. The government of Vietnam has passed down laws prohibiting the Dega students to go abroad to study or to access scholarships. For the Dega students who can attend university in Vietnam, the school fees are very high and there is no boarding schools for the Dega students.

Today, the Central Highlands University at Daklak (Dai Hoc Tay Nguyen) Dega's students comprise only 1% compared with thousands of Vietnamese students. The Government uses the “Central Highlands University” and the name of Dega students only for propaganda to ask for help and to support Vietnamese students from the outside world.

4. In January 2012, there are over 16,000 Vietnamese students allowed to study in the United States and not a single Dega student. This Report emphasizes the extreme ethnic discrimination towards the Dega peoples since 1975. The Vietnam government often blames Dega students for not being qualified for education abroad. It is yet another example of systematic policy discrimination towards the Dega peoples.

After 1975, teachers in the school system taught the Dega children to hate the American, French and Foreigners people accusing them of murdering their families and accusing them as being the cause of all suffering and death. Every school in the morning before school starts, students have to sing songs to praise Ho Chi Minh as a greatest leader of Vietnam history who brought hope, peace and happiness for Vietnam.

To prepare for socialization with tourists, foreign visitors or any delegations from the outside to visit Central Highland, the government trains Vietnamese students and teachers to speak Dega languages. The Dega people are rarely allowed to socialize with foreign visitors. If they allow Dega to speak, the Vietnamese police who speak Dega language have to be there to listen, monitor and record. The police security throughout the Central Highlands is extremely tight in every Dega village.

5. After the crackdown 2001-2004, the Dega Peoples who graduated from College were forced to join Communist Party of Vietnam if they wanted a job or if they wanted their children to receive higher education. The government of Vietnam did not force Vietnamese people to join the Communist Party but they forced the Dega. The government has trained Dega Communist Party Members to be against all others Dega including the Dega overseas.

Anei êlan hdră knuk kna Yuăn leh ngă, leh anân ăt dôk ngă ranei hin. Čăng hmăng Kơ phung hđeh hriăm hră Thâo săng Êlăm Kơ klei anei. Lač jăk

Nov 21, 2015 12:46 AM


from Charlotte

Why do the Vietnamese treat the Dega people as they do?

a. The Dega people are different a nation from the Vietnamese .

b. The Dega people supported the American during Vietnam war.

c. Christianity came to many our people from the United States.

d. The following are example of what the Vietnamese government have done and are still doing to Dega people

(1) Arrest and imprisonment
(2) Torture
(3) poison
(4) Targeted and hit by cars
(5) Dega women have, against their will, been sterilized, kidnapped, and raped.

Central Highland of Dega
Lived in peace
Ala Čar Dap kngư Đêga Hdip Hlăm
Klei êđap ênang

Drei iêu drei pô Đêga: Drei hdip hlăm klei êđap Ênang Êlâo Kơ thūn 1954. Dơng Mơng Aê Diê hrih adiê lăn ala drei, mnuih Đêga hdip pla sa anôk hlăm Lăn ala dap kngư, mdê kdreč hong Vietnam. Đêga jing mdê djuê Ana hong Yuăn." Yuăn mnuih Mơng êngao".Drei čiăng Mâo klei găl klei čuån mjing mă pô leh anăn klei git gai Kia kriê mă pô. Drei hrie Ti ala Čar lir mguôp anei čiăng bi truh Kơ phun klei čiăng Mâo drei.

Dega movement for Independence.
Đêga Krû Kdơng Čiăng Mâo klei Êngiê Khuăl.


God has plan for the Dega people. On 12/04/1984, the Vietnamese forces attacked the Dega freedom fighters in the Dong Rek Mountain in Thailand. The Dega freedom fighters moved into Thailand where we were met by the American Red Cross and French.

In 1986 and 1992, the Dega freedom fighters came to the United States to reach of our ultimate goal. Obtaining support from the United Nations, and recognition by the international community for the Dega to have the legal right of Self- Determination that can lead to restoration of our Independence.

What we do in our country? brother and sisters, is stand together, live together, die together - if necessary. It is better to die to be slave. We give our love to our nation like the River goes. We love each other and care for each other. We are brother and sisters; We are Dega. Think deeply and look far to do something important. Let us come to unite together to become a stronger family that no one can break.

What does country do for us? Our Country is our life. We highly value the land that God gave to us, but that has been taken away by the Vietnamese. Brother and sisters, please do not be afraid. God brought us here, and God has a plan for us to do something important to save our people, and also save everything that God has created in the Central Highlands.

We, the Dega, are hungry for freedom. We will keep knocking on the American door until the door opens. We, the Dega people, love the American as our own family. We accepted the United States Government Sponsorship and Support. We have a dream the United Stated Government will save and rescue us.

We, the Dega, will not give up. Our voice is stronger than the Vietnamese bomb. We will defeat the Vietnamese government because the Vietnamese government has already committed War Crimes in both the time of War as well as in the time of peace. The action of the Vietnamese government are defined a Crimes under International law.

God bless both the American and Dega.

Nov 21, 2015 12:29 AM

Anonymous Reader

The Montagnard Degar will be no longer disappeared and we are now as a last generation who speak Rhade in Central Highlands of Vietnam, the world has fail in definition between genocide and ethnic cleansing which was committed by communist Vietnam government. It is a very broken heart to us as Montagnard . But, to Vietnamese who loves freedom, don't be quickly happy about this assimilation process, after our turn then will be your turn to be assimilated by China. We are at the same board.

Oct 21, 2015 09:06 PM





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