World Bulletin / News Desk
The Cambodia Daily quoted immigration department spokesman Kerm Sarin as saying that “those Montagnard asylum-seekers must leave Cambodia within two weeks after the decision of the immigration department. In the case that they do not leave, we will arrest them and send them back to Vietnam.”
He did not say how many had been determined as refugees and would be allowed to stay.
Multiple attempts to reach Sarin on Thursday were unsuccessful, and immigration chief General Tan Sovichea said he could not comment.
Sister Denise Coghlan of the Jesuit Refugee Service told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that even though the Daily said not all would be made to leave, Sarin “has said he’s been misquoted”.
“The refugee office is actually in the process of making decisions about the Montagnards right now; they know nothing about this statement,” she said. “They’ve [asylum seekers] all been interviewed.”
In an email, Bangkok-based UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said she had “nothing to add besides the fact that we have not been informed of what was reported in the Cambodia Daily story”.
In late 2014, Montagnards -- a Christian people who predominantly live in the Central Highlands of Vietnam but claim they face increasing persecution there -- began coming across the border seeking refuge in Cambodia.
Over the next few months, their number swelled to nearly 200.
Earlier this year, the government began interviewing the 170 Montagnards who officially sought asylum.
To date, 13 Montagnards from this group who fled Vietnam for fear of persecution, torture and imprisonment have had their refugee statuses determined in Cambodia.