Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Unhcr Asia/Pacific Director

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) PHNOM PENH 1678, B) HANOI 2864

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met on November 24 with
Janet Lim, the new Asia/Pacific Bureau Chief for the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Describing
an earlier meeting with VFM Le Van Bang as "very good," Lim
said that VFM Bang had told her that the GVN wants to work
with the UNHCR and "other agencies" to provide assistance to
the Central Highlands. Lim described the UNHCR's
frustrations with the situation in Phnom Penh in which
Montagnards selected for resettlement neither want to accept
resettlement nor return to Vietnam. The UNHCR is asking the
Cambodian Government for "space and time" to reach a level
of comfort with this group of Montagnards. Lim expressed
concern about "manipulation" of the issue by certain
individuals, but had no further information to provide. In
response to the Ambassador's request, Lim pledged to provide
further information on the places of origin of the
Montagnards to help target these locations for possible
assistance. Lim also briefly relayed a few comments by the
Chinese Ambassador to Geneva about the North Korean refugee
issue. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador met on November 24 with Janet Lim,
the new Asia/Pacific Bureau Chief for the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Lim was joined by
UNHCR Vietnam Country Representative Vu Anh Son. Poloff
also attended. Lim opened by noting that she had taken up
her position in September, and that this was her first trip
to Vietnam in her new capacity. The trip was at the
invitation of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA), she said.

3. (SBU) Lim emphasized that she had a "very good meeting"
with MFA Vice Minister Le Van Bang earlier in the day. VFM
Bang had told her that the GVN and UNHCR need to "work
together" to resolve the situation in Cambodia. He also
said that the GVN wants to work with the UNHCR and "other
agencies" to provide assistance to the Central Highlands.
"He seemed to be speaking with authority," Lim commented.
With GVN concurrence, the UNHCR could provide some aid to
those attempted migrants who had asylum requests rejected
and were returned to the highlands. The Ambassador noted
that her experience stands in contrast to his meeting with
VFM Bang the week before, in which he had raised similar
points but received a less positive response.

4. (SBU) Providing an update on the current situation in
Cambodia, Lim said that there are currently 566 Montagnards
under UNHCR care, including 22 who had arrived in the
previous week. Of this group, 303 cases have been
considered for asylum (amounting to 401 individuals), and
among them 183 cases were recognized as valid and 120 were
refused; this amounts to a 60 percent acceptance rate, Lim
noted. The UNHCR is faced with a difficult situation
regarding both the Montagnards who were rejected and the
Montagnards who were accepted but subsequently said they do
not want to accept resettlement abroad and also do not want
to return to Vietnam (Ref. A). The Cambodian Government
(RGC) has told the UNHCR that these individuals cannot stay,
although forced return is "not acceptable" to the UNHCR, Lim
said. The UNHCR is "pushing the RGC for space and time,"
and trying to develop a "level of comfort" among the
Montagnards that could lead to voluntary return. "If they
still won't return, things may be taken out of our hands,"
and the RGC might begin forced repatriations, Lim warned.

5. (SBU) A number of leaders among the refugee group appear
to be directing asylees to refuse resettlement, Lim
continued. Of the 148 cases submitted for resettlement in
the United States, 38 individuals have indicated that they
wish to go, while 101 have rejected resettlement (she did
not elaborate on the remaining nine cases). Some
individuals have indicated that they wish to accept
resettlement, but are under social pressure not to do so.
In response to the Ambassador's question, Lim said, "clearly
there is manipulation" of the issue, but it is not evident
who is conducting it. She expressed concern about the
politicization of the issue, noting that outside
manipulation of the refugees will undermine the UNHCR's
program. "If the system is being manipulated, our
obligation ends," she warned.

6. (SBU) The UNHCR is now "pre-counseling" Montagnards in
Cambodia (at the border and before initiating a formal
review of refugee qualifications) about what the refugee
process entails. "We explain this is not about getting land
back," Lim said. As a result of this pre-counseling, some
Montagnards voluntarily return to Vietnam without filing
claims. The UNHCR in Phnom Penh has heard that the thirteen
Montagnards who returned to Vietnam on their own are now the
subject of rumors that they were sent home by the UNHCR and
told to convince other Montagnards in Vietnam to flee abroad
(Ref. B). The Ambassador said that the GVN informed us that
the thirteen had returned home safely, but that we have not
been able to confirm this on our own. Lim said that another
six Montagnards have returned on their own volition.

7. (SBU) Most of the Montagnards requesting asylum came from
areas within ten kilometers of the Vietnam-Cambodia border,
Lim said. The Ambassador requested the UNHCR to provide
more detailed information about the places of origin of the
Montagnards to help possible efforts to target them for
assistance. Lim promised to do so through their office in
Bangkok. The UNHCR is seeking to expand its Hanoi office
and introduce international staff. "If the Vietnamese
expect us to provide assistance in the Central Highlands, we
will need a larger staff," she stated. The Ambassador
suggested that UNHCR raise the issue with the GVN "as a test
of good faith."

8. (SBU) Touching briefly on North Korean refugees, Lim said
that she is in contact with the Chinese Ambassador in
Geneva. The PRC Ambassador had said that "the most
important thing to China is the six-party talks," but that
the Chinese are frustrated with the United States. "The
more [the U.S.] puts Korean refugees in the public arena,
the more we must show our good faith to the North Koreans,"
the PRC Ambassador reportedly said.


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