UN urges Cambodia not to deport Vietnamese

GENEVA - The United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday urged Cambodia not to deport Vietnamese tribespeople back to their hillside homes over concerns they would face persecution there.

"Based on media and other reports, more than 100 Vietnamese tribespeople may have been deported from Cambodia over recent months," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Kris Janowski.

"It is unacceptable for asylum-seekers to be forced back to their country of origin without a proper review of their asylum claims."

On Sunday, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch denounced Cambodia's "forced expulsions" of at least 89 asylum-seekers of the ethnic minority.

The asylum-seekers are from various Montagnard tribes, an ethnic minority of the Central Highlands who fought alongside U.S. forces during the Vietnam War.

They claim to be targeted by a Hanoi crackdown which follows demonstrations in February against land confiscation and alleged religious repression.

"UNHCR is very concerned that police may have deported Vietnamese who lacked proper documents, including individuals who claimed to be fleeing for political reasons," Janowski told a news briefing.

The Geneva-based UNHCR said it knew of some 200 Vietnamese asylum-seekers in Cambodia.

06:44 05-22-01

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