Ninety-four Montagnards who sought asylum in Cambodia have been forced to return to Vietnam after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found they did not qualify as refugees. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says the U.S. has raised "objections to this involuntary repatriation with both the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam" and is "disappointed that these individuals were repatriated before an internationally-staffed monitoring program was in place in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and before other solutions could be considered for these individuals."
In April 2004, Montagnards began to cross the border with Cambodia following protests against land confiscation and religious persecution in Vietnam's Central Highlands. Human rights groups are criticizing the Cambodian government for forcing a number of Montagnards to return to Vietnam and say they have received "information that [the] Vietnam government punish[es] some Montagnards who were returned." Vietnamese authorities have stated that those who return will not be punished for leaving Vietnam and will be assisted to return to their homes and resume their lives in Vietnam.
On the few occasions when United Nations representatives have visited the Central Highlands recently, they have reported no signs of mistreatment of Montagnards. The U.S. and other countries have pressed the Vietnamese Government to allow regular and frequent access for international officials to monitor the return of Montagnards from Cambodia to help ensure that those who return are not mistreated.
The United States also encourages the Montagnards and the governments of Vietnam and Cambodia to reach a mutually acceptable, lasting solution to the problems of the Montagnard community, including respect for their fundamental human rights.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.