PHNOM PENH (AFP) – Cambodian police said Wednesday they were scouring remote northeastern jungles for a group of Vietnamese Montagnards who crossed the border in an apparent attempt to seek asylum.
Rights groups say 13 of the hill tribe people, including one woman, fled persecution in Vietnam late last month and have since been hiding out in Cambodia’s Rattanakiri province.
“Montagnards” is a French term referring to the patchwork of mainly Christian ethnic minority groups that live in Vietnam’s mountainous Central Highlands region.
“We are searching for them. We haven’t found them yet,” Rattanakiri police chief Nguon Koern told AFP, adding that the Ministry of Interior would decide if the group should be deported.
In Hanoi the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not immediately confirm whether it is seeking their deportation.
“However, all citizens of all countries have to obey the laws of their own countries as well as regulations concerning entry and exit formalities,” ministry official Pham Thu Hang told AFP.
Many Montagnards supported French and later US forces against the communists during the Indochina wars, and have faced persecution and discrimination since the end of the conflict in 1975.
The 13 individuals have fled persecution in Vietnam and want to seek asylum, said Chhay Thy, Rattanakiri coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc.