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Cablegate: Unhcr Says Montagnard Camps Maxed; Stateless Khmer Plan

VZCZCXRO4446
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #0100/01 0300023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300023Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7062
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4194
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 1229

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000100

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND PRM, BANGKOK FOR REFUGEE COORDINATOR, GENEVA
FOR RMA
PHNOM PENH FOR JANET DEUTSCH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PREF KIRF CB VM

SUBJECT: UNHCR SAYS MONTAGNARD CAMPS MAXED; STATELESS KHMER PLAN
PROGRESSING

REFS: A) 07 HCMC 1137; B) 07 HANOI 1651

HANOI 00000100 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) In a January 23 farewell call with Ambassador Michalak,
retiring UNHCR Regional Representative Hasim Utkan reviewed the
progress UNHCR had made in Vietnam over the last several years.
Working cooperatively with the GVN, the USG and the international
donor community, Utkan said UNHCR had helped "open up" the Central
Highlands region and secure, through negotiation, a more permissive
environment for development and monitoring from the GVN and local
authorities. By contrast, Utkan lamented the current conditions at
Montagnard refugee camps in Cambodia, where he said arrivals from
Vietnam -- employing dangerous human smugglers -- had been
increasing and camps were at maximum capacity. He expressed concern
about the role of U.S.-based Montagnard advocacy groups in promoting
emigration and called for better communication and education on the
USG Visas-93 program and application procedures in Vietnam. On a
positive note, Utkan said the GVM Prime Minister had signed off on
the UNHCR and GVN Ministry of Foreign Affairs' (MFA) plan to resolve
the cases of several thousand stateless persons originally from
Cambodia in Southern Vietnam. A full census and process for
naturalization to Vietnamese citizenship is the crux of the plan
which will begin implementation this year, according to Utkan. End
summary.

UNHCR: NOT WILLING TO OPEN MORE CAMPS
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) At a January 23 farewell call with Ambassador Michalak,
UNHCR Regional Representative Hasim Utkan (due to retire at the end
of January) told the Ambassador the situation in the three UNHCR-run
Montagnard refugee facilities in Cambodia was very difficult, with
the facilities close to their maximum holding rate. He said there
were now over 500 individuals living at the sites which together
have a maximum capacity of 550, and UNHCR was not willing to open
more facilities. Utkan said 2007 had seen an increase in Vietnamese
Montagnard arrivals to Cambodia and that 80 percent were now coming
directly to Phnom Penh, most using human smugglers. Utkan said many
of the cases had already been reviewed and rejected for refugee
status, while both deportation and refugee resettlement processes
were slow and tedious. In some cases, individuals remain at the
sites for processing for over one and a half years, and tempers can
flare.

CONCERN ABOUT US-BASED ADVOCACY GROUPS
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Utkan expressed concern about the role of Montagnard
advocacy groups in the United States in "encouraging the exodus" to
Phnom Penh to facilitate emigration overseas. He said many of those
individuals arriving in Phnom Penh from Vietnam were eligible for
the USG Visas-93 program, yet they opted to be smuggled into
Cambodia rather than apply for Visas-93 at our ConGen in Ho Chi Minh
City. He said the USG, GVN, and UNHCR needed to cooperate more on
this issue, stating that local Vietnamese officials needed to be
educated and trained on Vietnam's responsibilities under the
Tri-Partite MOU, Visas-93 and other USG immigration programs. UNHCR
needed to continue to share lists with State's PRM Bureau to help
identify and advise sponsoring relatives in the United States, Utkan
said, while family members in the United States needed to be advised
on how to apply for Visas-93 and that the use of human smugglers for
their Vietnam-based relatives was very dangerous.

4. (SBU) National and local GVN officials need to cooperate on
issuing identity papers to potential refugee applicants and
facilitating Visas-93 applications. Identity papers continue to be
an issue, Utkan remarked. Utkan also noted that UNHCR, for its
part, needed increased staff to accelerate its refugee status
determination (RSD) process as well as to process more regular and
smaller deportations, which would attract less attention.

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS "STABLE"
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Utkan sees Vietnam's Central Highlands region as much more
stable than in 2004 (when there were mass protests) and remarked
that the region was "in better condition than the Mekong Delta." He
told the Ambassador that UNHCR now had a good working relationship
with the GVN and there was a "climate of confidence" and
cooperation. The region is much more open, has a "moving economy"
and provincial authorities are more receptive to foreign
delegations, according to Utkan. UNHCR has conducted 18 monitoring

HANOI 00000100 002.2 OF 002


missions since 2005 and conducted several micro-projects, including
a number funded by the USG. He said while monitoring visits and
"private interviews" with ethnic minority returnees was not a
perfect science, the situation "had settled" and the system was
working.

6. (SBU) He told the Ambassador the GVN now understood that they had
to develop the Central Highlands region and had since developed
better policies to "integrate" rather than "marginalize" the region.
He cited land distribution efforts and the establishment of
vocational training centers for ethnic minorities. He hoped the
international donor community would support ongoing GVN efforts.

STATELESS KHMER PLAN "READY FOR IMPLEMENTATION"
--------------------------------------------- --

7. (SBU) Utkan said the GVN Prime Minister's office had recently
signed off on a plan (Reftels), developed by UNHCR and the GVN MFA,
to survey and naturalize to Vietnamese citizenship a population of
stateless persons originally from Cambodia in Southern Vietnam. The
GVN agreed to waive a naturalization fee for these largely
impoverished individuals, which had been a stumbling block. Utkan
was due to see the EU Ambassador in Hanoi to follow up on a pledge
by the EU to fund the census component of the plan. However, Utkan
said the Plan was "all agreed on" and just needed a final agreement
on the logistics. Nevertheless, Utkan asked the Ambassador that he
keep it on the Mission's agenda with the GVN. Utkan acknowledged
that there was an "expectation of results" now.

8. (SBU) Utkan said 3,000 stateless individuals were in former UNHCR
camps, while thousands of others had moved into HCMC. Without legal
status in Vietnam, they have been denied access to health, education
and other public services for decades. He said while the GVN
Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Ministry of Public Security (MPS) had
provided road blocks to approval of the plan, it was finally, the Ho
Chi Minh City (HCMC) People's Committee that had helped push through
a deal with the government. Utkan used this as an example to the
Ambassador, as with dealing with the Central Highlands, the need to
get "buy-in" from provincial-level authorities.

9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate General Ho Chi Minh
City.

MICHALAK

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