UNHCR Takes Custody of 11 More Montagnards

O’Yadaw district, Ratanakkiri province – Eleven more Montagnard asylum-seekers were taken under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Wednesday in O’Yadaw district. A second operation will take place today to collect around 20 asylum-seekers reportedly hiding in the district, refugee agency staff said.

The six men, four women and one 11-year-old girl emerged from the jungle around Kong village, where 21 asylum seekers were collected by UNHCR in July. They were transferred to a temporary UN shelter in the provincial capital of Banlung. The group joined five other asylum seekers who emerged from the jungle in Bokeo district on Sunday.

Today’s scheduled collection is the last reported group of Montagnards in hiding and the agency expects to transfer all the asylum seekers to Phnom Penh by Monday, UNHCR protection and field assistant Chung Ravuth said Wednesday.

Unless new information emerges, UNHCR will also likely leave with that group Monday, Chung Ravuth said.

“After [Thursday] we expect it to be the last trip for this second mission to Ratanakkiri and if that is true and we don’t hear anything from Adhoc, our plan is to go back on Monday with the last group to Phnom Penh which will mean we will temporarily close our mission, for the time being,” he said.

Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said Wednesday that no new reports of asylum seekers in hiding have yet been received by his organization. Adhoc has been the main source of the UNHCR’s information on the asylum seekers’ locations.

UNHCR is currently in the process of contacting Mondolkiri province officials to seek access to the O’Tang and O’Leave areas of Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district where some 16 asylum-seekers have been reported in hiding, Chung Ravuth said. Though both areas are officially in Ratanakkiri, Mondolkiri authorities have security posts on the Sre Pok river area of O’Tang and O’Leave and effectively has control over the areas.

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