UNHCR Team Suspends Search For Montagnards Hiding in Cambodian Jungle

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Part of the group of Montagnards in a jungle in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province, Nov. 26, 2014. Some of their faces have been blurred to conceal their identities.
Part of the group of Montagnards in a jungle in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province, Nov. 26, 2014. Some of their faces have been blurred to conceal their identities.

A United Nations refugee agency team returned to Phnom Penh Friday after failing to make contact with 13 ethnic Montagnards who are hiding in northeastern Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province, to which they fled following alleged persecution in Vietnam, according to a rights group Friday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) team left after local authorities refused to cooperate with them in their search by restricting their movements, sources said.

The team had hoped to assess the needs and status of the group, which crossed the border from Vietnam’s Gia Lai province in early November and has been hiding in the forests to avoid being forced by Cambodian authorities to return home, where they say they face persecution.

The UNHCR team left Ratanakiri after being told by provincial deputy police chief Chea Bunthoeun that they “can’t travel in the province without permission from authorities,” provincial coordinator for the Adhoc rights group Chhay Thi told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“The U.N. team is concerned about the Montagnards’ well-being and promised to return soon,” Chhay Thi said.

Chea Bunthoeun could not be reached for comment, but speaking separately and on condition of anonymity, police sources told RFA that provincial authorities will not be able to help the U.N. team in its search until the team receives permission from Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior to proceed with its mission.

The Montagnards had told RFA’s Khmer Service last week that they were forced to enter the country illegally to escape repeated threats from Vietnamese authorities, and have been hiding to evade capture from Cambodian authorities, who they believe will force them to return home.
They hope to seek asylum in Cambodia, and meanwhile have been sleeping in hammocks without any shelter in the forests.

Appeals for help

Local villagers have meanwhile become concerned for their safety as police raid homes and farms in the area in their own search for the Montagnards, at least two of whom are now seriously ill, Chhay Thi said.

“[The group] has informed the villagers that they are facing shortages of food, and are urging the U.N. and other donors to help them immediately.”

“The government has failed to honor its commitment to implement international obligations” protecting the rights of asylum-seekers, he said.

A UNHCR spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment Friday.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Koung told RFA this week that Cambodian authorities want to provide the Montagnards with food and medication, but have been unable to find them.

He refused to comment on whether the government would deport the group if it determines its location.

Land rights denied

Vietnam’s Central Highlands are home to some 30 tribes of indigenous peoples, known collectively as Montagnards or the Degar, who rights groups say suffer extreme persecution.

Early in the last decade, thousands in the region staged violent protests against the confiscation of their ancestral lands and religious controls, prompting a brutal crackdown by security forces that saw hundreds of Montagnards charged with national security crimes.

Representatives of the minority group have said that they are only calling for indigenous land rights and basic human rights in Vietnam, despite attempts by Hanoi to link them to overseas separatist groups.

Reported by Samean Yun and Ratha Visal for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Comments (3)

Anonymous Reader

We are tired of under the named of progress and development CSVN implements to destroy our people.
We are tired of your civilization is full of lies and with two faces of living .Your technology not brings protection to the world but only destruction.

Dec 08, 2014 07:03 AM


from Long Beach


In the US a black man was shot by a white police officer in Ferguson MO. Many people protested, especially after the jury decided to not indict the cop. Also if someone is racist to you, you can sue if you ask an organization like NAACP or ACLU. The civil rights movement in 60s brought new laws that made discrimination illegal. Also the 1st Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, religion, etc.

In Vietnam things are very different. A Vietnamese cop can shoot a Montagnard if they wanted to and the world wouldn't care or hear about it. There are no organizations to contact if you are discriminated there. No freedom of speech, religion, or anything. The difference between living in USA and living in Vietnam is like the difference between heaven and hell. As a Khmer Krom, I think the 13 people did the right thing by running away.

Because Cambodia government bow down to Hanoi slavery, these people know they are NOT SAFE and are in the jungle so no one can find them and deport them. But at least the UN is starting to do SOMETHING.

Dec 06, 2014 04:09 PM

Anonymous Reader

To the old saying that still rings true to this very day:
<<For the love of lies is the root of all chaos >>.
Ho Chi Minh and his CS VN party keep saying << Vietnam is one , people Vietnam is one>> instead of saying << Vietnam is one, people Vietnam is more than 54 ethnicities >>
They told us( Montagnards) that we came from 100 eggs with Vietnamese . << Lac Long is father and Au Co is mother>>.
They told to the world that Vietnam has no Indigenous people, but only minorities living in Vietnam???
They create Vietnam in chaos!

Dec 06, 2014 09:35 AM





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