Montagnard Christian refugees in Phnom Penh fear imminent deportation, as the number of police guards outside their residence has risen to as many as ten, since 20 March.
One refugee raised concerns, saying, “So many police of Cambodia came to guards us … and so many [of] their cars … We are very worry about deporting to Vietnam.” The Cambodian government’s Refugee Department has refused to answer questions from local reporters on reasons for the increase in police presence.
Since 2015, around 200 ethnic Montagnards have crossed the border from Vietnam into Cambodia seeking asylum, many of whom are Protestant Christians who have suffered imprisonment, physical abuse and been restricted from practising their religion.
The remaining Montagnard refugees, including those granted official status, live under a shadow of possible deportation to Vietnam. Despite a £28.8 million ($31 million; €25 million) aid deal with Australia to accept refugees, Cambodian authorities have ordered the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to repatriate Vietnamese Montagnards “within three months”.
The mainly Christian minority of ethnic Montagnards originate from the Central Highlands of Vietnam. They have endured decades of persecution from the Communist authorities because of their Christian faith and their alliance with US forces during the Vietnam War.