Denied Asylum, 13 Montagnards Sent to Vietnam

Thirteen Montagnards whose asylum requests were denied by Cambodia were deported on Thursday to Vietnam, a police official said.

Chea Bunthoeun, deputy Ratanakkiri provincial police chief, said the 13 asylum-seekers, from a mostly Christian minority group who say they face religious and political persecution at home, were returned to Vietnam through O’yadaw International Checkpoint.

“Representatives from the U.N. and from the general department for refugees handed them over to the Vietnamese authorities,” Mr. Bunthoeun said.

The 13 were from a group of 16 whose deportation an official from the Interior Ministry’s refugee department said on Sunday had been stalled due to pressure from the U.N. refugee agency.

Vivian Tan, regional press officer for the UNHCR, said in an email that the Montagnards were driven back to their homes in the Central Highlands and the agency would “seek access shortly” to review their living conditions, well-being and livelihood upon their return.

The refugee agency has been criticized for facilitating what it calls the “voluntary” return of asylum-seekers, a claim advocates have refuted.

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