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Montagnard Returnees to Viet Nam Preparing Life

Montagnard Returnees to Viet Nam Preparing for ‘Normal Life’– UN

New York, May 24 2005 12:00PM

After a recent three-day monitoring trip to Viet Nam’s central highlands to check on the well-being of Montagnards who had voluntarily returned from Cambodia, the United Nations refugee agency reported that the returnees seem pleased to be “back in the swing” of normal life.

Vu Anh Son, the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in country, met with local authorities and 18 returnee families during his visit from 18 to 21 May to Gia Lai and Kom Tum provinces in the central highlands. A total of 35 Montagnards returned home in March after an agreement was signed by UNHCR, Viet Nam and Cambodia in late January this year to resolve the issue of those who had fled under the mistaken idea that UNHCR could help them resolve property disputes in their villages.

Mr. Son said all of the returnees he met said they had stopped over in Pleiku, the provincial capital of Gia Lai, for a few days immediately after their return to Viet Nam. They said they were questioned by the local authorities about the reasons for their departure and were told about the Government policies towards minorities and Montagnard returnees. They also underwent certain administrative formalities.

“No one I met amongst the returnees claimed they were beaten or harassed during their stay in Pleiku or upon their return home,” said Mr. Son, who visited the returnees in their homes. “They all seemed in good shape.”
Under the January accord, Viet Nam gave written guarantees that the returnees would not be punished, discriminated against or prosecuted.

As the returnees’ homes are spread out in various districts, the UNHCR representative had to drive over 650 kilometres in two-and-a-half days to visit 18 returnee families in three districts in Gia Lai and one district on Kom Tum. Because of the distances involved, Mr. Son was unable to meet all returnees during this visit but there were no constraints by the authorities concerning access. UNHCR said hoped to check on the other returnees on subsequent visits.

“The returnees seem pleased to be back and have started their lives again,” Mr. Son said.


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