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Concern Mounts: Montagnards Crossing Into Cambodia

UN Refugee Agency Voices Concern For Montagnards Crossing Into Cambodia

The United Nations refugee agency today said it is concerned that a growing number of Montagnards from Viet Nam have crossed into Cambodia under the mistaken impression that it could help them get their confiscated lands back.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that during interviews with many of the 441 Montagnard asylum seekers it became apparent that many of them had crossed the border following rumours and alleged radio reports that the “UN” could help them recover confiscated lands, and not all were fleeing persecution.

“Once it was made clear UNHCR could not assist them with their land grievances, some asylum seekers said they wanted to return to Viet Nam,” Ron Redmond said in Geneva. “Others who had already been recognized as refugees also overwhelmingly rejected resettlement.”

UNHCR had turned up the Montagnards after conducting missions with Cambodian authorities to the border states of Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri in response to reports that groups of asylum seekers were hiding in the jungle, Mr. Redmond said.

“This situation has placed UNHCR in a quandary as our mandate is to provide international protection for refugees, not to resolve land disputes,” he said, noting that the Cambodian Government wants a speedy resettlement.

“We are involved in a constructive dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities to find an acceptable humanitarian solution for the repatriation of those asylum seekers who wish to return home,” he added.

“But we nevertheless remain concerned that Montagnards, under the illusion that we can help with their land problems, may have put themselves at unnecessary risk and exposed themselves to increased vulnerability by crossing into Cambodia.”

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