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Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Unhcr Regional Representative

DE RUEHHI #1999/01 2190843
P 070843Z AUG 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) On August 1, UNHCR provided the Ambassador with a readout
of recent Vietnmam-related developments. UNHCR is working to
resolve the status of 9,500 Cambodians (Khmer Krom) living in
southern Vietnam through a joint working group with the GVN and
Government of Cambodia, though progress is slow. With a planned
September monitoring visit to Gia Lai and possibly Kon Tum
provinces, UNHCR will attempt to raise to 80 percent the number of
ethnic minority returnees it has seen. New arrivals in Cambodia
from the Central Highlands in the first six months of this year are
up 70 percent over the same period last year due to a greater number
of direct arrivals in Phnom Penh. UNHCR decided to accept three
so-called double-backers despite reservations about their stories of
persecution. Recent UNHCR training of provincial-level officials in
the Central Highlands was successful and will be expanded to
district-level officials. Despite initial reluctance on the part of
local security officials, a U.S.-funded micro-project in Gia Lai is
now underway. UNHCR also noted that, after a recent meeting with
NGO critics, it has agreed to disagree concerning reported
conditions in the Central Highlands. End Summary.

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Khmer Krom

2. (SBU) On August 1, the Ambassador met with UNHCR Regional
Representative Hasim Utkan and Hanoi Chief of Mission Vu Anh Son.
Utkan noted that he and Son had just met with VFM Le Van Bang and
had delivered to him a letter from UNHCR Assistant Commissioner
Erika Feller advocating 1) the convention of an August 16-17
conference of parties to the Tripartite MOU (agenda is under
discussion), 2) resolution of the status of the 9,500 Cambodians
(Khmer Krom) in southern Vietnam and 3) resolution of the GVN's
legal contradictions concerning stateless people in general
(especially women who go abroad to marry, renounce their Vietnamese
citizenship and then divorce before attaining their husband's
citizenship, leaving them stateless). On this last item, UNHCR
offered to provide technical assistance to the GVN to help it
address problems related to statelessness. On item two, the
Cambodian Government is prepared to "do its part" by not making a
claim regarding these individuals' Cambodian citizenship, but the
mechanics of granting them Vietnamese citizenship have yet to be
worked out. UNHCR, Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to convene a
working party and bilateral ministerial visits to resolve this;
however, neither the working party nor the ministerial visits have
moved forward, Utkan said.


3. (SBU) Utkan noted that UNHCR's USG-funded micro-projects in the
Central Highland region have "had their ups and downs;" however, USG
money "will now be fully spent." The USG-funded school construction
project in Gia Lai is moving forward thanks to the intervention with
local authorities of both Son and the MFA. Son noted that the
hold-up on these projects was the result of local Ministry of Public
Security (MPS) officials' confusion concerning the Congressional
earmark for USD two million to be spent in the Central Highlands.
When local MPS officials became aware of the earmark, they "became
scared of any NGO involvement in the region" and ordered local
officials not to accept any money from UNHCR. This confusion has
been resolved, Son added. The Ambassador asked Utkan and Son to
inform Embassy staff if such local confusion arises in the future so
that we can inform our GVN contacts immediately. UNHCR has also
asked the EU to submit a proposal for further micro-projects in the

Training Sessions

4. (SBU) Utkan noted that UNHCR is generally pleased with the
success of its training workshops for provincial officials from the
Central Highlands. These training workshops, funded by the
Norwegian Embassy, were aimed at explaining UNHCR and its mandate to
local officials. On the strength of local demand for further
training, Son is preparing to conduct more workshops for district-
and commune-level officials from these same provinces, Utkan added.

Refugees in Cambodia

5. (SBU) Utkan stated that, so far this year, there have been 170
new additions to those under UNHCR's care in Phnom Penh. This is an
increase of more than 70 percent over the same period last year.
Five are children born after their parents arrived in Cambodia, and,
of the remaining 165 adults, 30 turned out to be Cambodians. Some

HANOI 00001999 002.2 OF 003

49 of the remaining 135 adults were direct arrivals, i.e, those who
went to Phnom Penh and presented themselves to the UNHCR office, who
were held for three weeks by the Cambodian Government in a "guest
house" separate from the camps. Son noted that new arrivals are
mainly coming from Chu Se, Ia Grai and Duc Co districts in Gia Lai
Province. Most of the 140 new arrivals come from Gia Lai Province
(98 persons). The others come from the provinces of Dak Lak (20
persons), Dak Nong (16 persons) and Lam Dong (1 person). Most of
the new arrivals are of Jarai ethnicity (101 persons). The others
are Ede (20 persons), Mnong (16 persons), Bahnar (2 persons) and
Koho (1 person).

6. (SBU) Utkan noted that in the first six months of 2005, there
were only 99 arrivals, and Utkan ascribed the increase in this
year's arrivals to the number of direct arrivals who are showing up
in Phnom Penh (as opposed to being picked up in Ratanakiri
Province). Of the 140 new arrivals (including children), there have
been 11 persons who have voluntarily repatriated to Vietnam this
year. The remaining 129 persons (88 cases) remain under UNHCR
protection in the sites, or in a Phnom Penh guesthouse pending the
RGC approval of their transfer to the sites. At the moment, there
are 20 persons staying in the guesthouse, Utkan said.

7. (SBU) Utkan further stated that although UNHCR had expected
follow-to-join (Visas-93) applicants to attempt to cross into
Cambodia after being frustrated by the Visas-93 process, this has
not yet been an issue. This year so far, there have been no
recognitions under derivative status based on husbands and fathers
in the United States. The new arrivals for 2006 are not Visas-93
cases, and almost all of them are making individual claims of
persecution rather than family reunification claims. That said,
Utkan pledged to work with us to ensure that individuals currently
under UNHCR's care in Cambodia are not also applicants in the
Visas-93 program.

New Adjudication Procedures

8. (SBU) Following Assistant Commissioner Feller's visit, UNHCR had
proposed to PRM new adjudication procedures that aim to cut in half
the time between refugees' arrival and departure for resettlement
(which can be as long as 411 days), Utkan continued. (Note: UNHCR
has proposed that the USG get a first look at all asylum-seekers,
and then UNHCR and other countries would take a look at whom the USG
does not screen in. End Note.) Under the new procedures, UNHCR
will "do its part" to minimize processing time and will move faster
to adjudicate applicants rejected by the USG.

Returnee Monitoring Visits

9. (SBU) Utkan stated that UNHCR is planning its next monitoring
visit for September. At three to four days, the trip to Gia Lai
(and possibly Kon Tum) will be longer than previous monitoring
visits and will attempt to increase the percentage of returnees whom
UNHCR has seen to 80 or 90 percent (up from the current 66 percent).
Of the two individuals who were arrested after their return to
Vietnam, UNHCR was able to visit the one who was subsequently
released. The Gia Lai People's Committee has agreed to let Utkan
and Son visit the other returnee, who is being held on alien
smuggling charges, in prison.


10. (SBU) On the issue of double-backers, Utkan noted that UNHCR had
ultimately decided to screen three of them in as "surplus" --
although their stories of persecution did not hold water -- because
"we felt it was not worth the risk of sending them back and the GVN
doesn't want them." Utkan also said that there are currently six
"rejected/rejected" individuals who were turned down by both UNHCR
and the USG; their cases will have to be submitted to the Cambodian
Government for return to Vietnam.

Relations with Human Rights Watch

11. (SBU) Finally, Utkan noted that he recently met with Sara Colm
and Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch (HRW) to discuss HRW's recent
criticisms of the Tripartite MOU and UNHCR's activities. (Note:
These criticisms were based on the double-backers' reports and on
reports on conditions in the Central Highlands from follow-to-join
wives who recently arrived in the United States. End Note.) UNHCR
and HRW have "agreed to disagree" on the situation facing returnees
in the Central Highlands. "The problem is that HRW wants us to
assume a human rights role, which is not our function," Utkan

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