At least four of the three dozen Montagnards who were deported to Vietnam last month by Cambodian authorities after they were discovered hiding in the forest have disappeared from their villages in Vietnam, according to other members of the group.
“Four people are missing,” one member of the group of deportees, who declined to be named, told RFA’s Khmer Service via phone from Vietnam on Wednesday. “I don’t know what happened to them. I don’t know about their fate. I am not sure if they have been imprisoned.”
Vietnamese authorities questioned some of the 36 Montagnards after they had been returned to the country, and allowed 11 of them from villages in Vietnam’s Gia Lai province, which borders Cambodia, to go home, he said.
The Christian indigenous people from Vietnam’s Central Highlands who fled to Cambodia had been hiding in the forests of the country’s remote northeastern Ratanakiri province, hoping to seek refugee status for alleged political and religious persecution in their homeland.
So far, there is no information about the four who went missing after their release, and RFA could not reach Vietnamese embassy officials for comment.
Cambodian Charai villagers who had helped Montagnards when they were hiding In Ratanakiri province said the Montagnards had told them that during their detention in Vietnam, local authorities did not torture them, but that others who had been summoned to the district offices were tortured.
“First we weren’t tortured, but when they [the Charai villagers] called to the district, the others were tortured,” the Montagnard said.
The Montagnards have asked the villagers not to call them anymore because they are afraid that the Vietnamese authorities are spying on them, he said.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc has appealed to the United Nations to monitor the Montagnards who had returned to Vietnam to ensure their safety.
The 36 Montagnards were from three separate groups with a total of 50, who had been hiding in Ratanakiri’s O’Yadaw and Lumphat districts.
The Cambodian villagers provided the Montagnards with food and shelter and helped them plan a minivan trip to Phnom Penh at the end of February, so they could seek help from the United Nations.
Reported Sok Ratha of RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.