Friday, July 22, 2005

Cambodian rights groups voice anger over forced return of Vietnamese

A coalition of Cambodian human rights groups has condemned the forced repatriation of 107 Vietnamese Montagnards to their homeland, claiming violence was used to make them leave Cambodia.

On Wednesday, Cambodian authorities escorted the Montagnards back to Vietnam after the United Nations turned down their request for refugee status.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee says there should be no forced returns of Montagnards to Vietnam and that any repatriations of Montagnards from Cambodia should be voluntary.

The 18-member coalition says the returnees could be in danger of torture in Vietnam.

Montagnards, a largely Christian hilltribe first arrived en masse in Cambodia from Vietnam's Central Highlands in 2001, because of land confiscation and religious persecution.

In January, Vietnam, Cambodia and the United Nations refugee agency agreed to resettle the Montagnard asylum seekers to a third country or repatriate the ethnic minority arrivals back to Vietnam if they wished.