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In my heart I didn't want to run to Cambodia and abandon my family. I was in the forest before with FULRO in 1990 and know how difficult it is. All I want is a place that's safe. If the Vietnamese catch me, they will chop me up like chopped fish. Our group needs to stay together; live together and die together. If the U.N. wants to meet me to ask about our problem I will meet them. But I will not abandon my group.

-Jarai man who fled to Cambodia in February 2001

Within days of the government crackdown in the Central Highlands in February 2001, small numbers of highlanders from Dak Lak and Gia Lai had fled from their villages and began to cross the border to Cambodia, where they hid in the forests of Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri provinces. In March 2001, provincial officials in Mondolkiri arrested twenty-four ethnic Ede, who were escorted on March 24 in military helicopters to Phnom Penh, where they were detained at the national Gendarmerie headquarters.

Under considerable pressure from Vietnam, Cambodian officials initially announced that they planned to deport the highlanders as illegal immigrants and barred access to the group by officials from UNHCR.391 Then in an unusual reversal, Prime Minister Hun Sen defied his long-time allies on March 31, when he agreed to allow UNHCR to interview the group. In a move that infuriated Vietnam, the group of twenty-four were identified as refugees in need of protection and were resettled to the United States in early April, along with fourteen ethnic Jarai, who had managed to make contact with UNHCR as well.392

The Vietnamese government charged that the U.S. was interfering in Vietnam's internal affairs and its bilateral relations with Cambodia, as well as encouraging illegal departures of Vietnamese people. In a statement defending his decision, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said: "I think that what the U.S. is doing on this issue is not an intervention in anybody's internal affairs, but they are fulfilling a humanitarian obligation ... Vietnam should examine its humanitarian obligations too."393

Prior to the highlanders' departure from Phnom Penh, the Vietnamese government went to great lengths to press Cambodia to turn over custody of the refugees.394 On April 9, the Vietnamese Red Cross requested that the Cambodian Red Cross intervene and immediately repatriate the highlanders, an appeal that Cambodian Red Cross President Bun Rany (Hun Sen's wife) rejected.395 A delegation that included the deputy chief of mission from the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Vietnamese Red Cross representatives, and Vietnamese intelligence agents met the refugees when they were in detention in Phnom Penh.396 The Vietnamese Red Cross attempted to show the refugees videotapes of their families in Vietnam, pleading for them to return.397 One of the refugees described the situation:

We were questioned several times by Vietnamese people when we were in Phnom Penh. Vietnamese people also took videotapes of us there. The Vietnamese Red Cross person tried to force us to take letters and watch a videotape. He argued in English with an American man about this. We all stuck our fingers in our ears and lowered our heads when they put on the video. We refused to take the letters.398

Another refugee recognized one of the Vietnamese men who questioned the group when they were in Phnom Penh:

I had seen him before-at the demonstration in Buon Ma Thuot. He was watching us and talking to the police, but dressed in civilian clothes. He was staring at me during the demonstration and asked me to stop demonstrating.

When he met me in Phnom Penh, he asked me if I would go back to Vietnam. I said not until we get land for our people. He asked where I lived. I told him it wasn't his business. He told me my family was waiting for me. I said fine, but we need land. He tried to scare me.

There were three Vietnamese there and one Cambodian guard. I`m pretty sure two were from Hanoi. They had a camera and took photographs of us. I asked them where they were from and they said Phnom Penh. I said I guess that you're from Hanoi. They got angry and said how did I know. [They spoke the northern accent]. They looked like strangers, talked very angrily with me, blamed me for causing others to leave Vietnam. They said these people look to you. If those people go back, they will go with you. I said I don't want to see your face.

The next day the Vietnamese called me again for questioning. They asked us to return to Vietnam. I said not until we have land for our people. They asked if we'd done the paperwork [to get land title.] I said we tried hundreds of times; your heart is hard. They said if I returned to Vietnam, there will be no problem but if you go far away there will be big problems.

In April 2001, the increasingly repressive environment in the highlands caused more highlanders to flee to Cambodia, where approximately 150 Ede and Mnong hid in the forests of Mondolkiri for weeks. A local villager who supplied them with food and rice told the Cambodia Daily that he advised the group to remain in hiding after hearing that Vietnamese agents were offering bounties for returned refugees, as well as reports that nineteen ethnic Jarai had been arrested and forcibly repatriated in Mondolkiri:

I told them they should not come [out of hiding], as they will be arrested. I talked with them for one hour and I gave them twenty kilos of rice...They cried and I cried. They blamed me, saying that they came here and I can't help them. They said that if they go back they will be killed, and they can't stay in the forest.399

From March until May 2001, prior to the establishment of UNHCR refugee camps in Cambodia's border provinces, Cambodian authorities forcibly repatriated more than one hundred refugees back to Vietnam.400 A Cambodian district official in Mondolkiri stated that Cambodian police were escorting Vietnamese police in Mondolkiri in order to search for refugees, and there were reports that bounties had been offered for each Montagnard refugee deported to Vietnam.401 (See section on deportations, below.)

On May 11, 2001, after a family of seven Mnong under U.N. protection was forcibly returned to Vietnam, UNHCR staff escorted approximately 150 ethnic minority refugees (thirty families) from several hiding places in the forest in Mondolkiri to an encampment in the provincial capital of Sen Monorum.402

The forced repatriation of two large groups of highlanders by Cambodian provincial authorities on May 15 was put in motion the same day that UNHCR Regional Representative Jahanshah Assadi met with Hok Lundy, director general of the Cambodian National Police. At that meeting Hok Lundy assured Assadi that Vietnamese refugees would be protected. That night Cambodian police officials in Ratanakiri transported sixty-three ethnic Jarai in two groups to the Vietnam border, from where they were forcibly returned to Vietnam.403

On May 17, UNHCR finally secured Cambodian government approval to establish two camps for refugees, one in Mondolkiri and one in Ratanakiri-which sheltered close to 400 highlanders by the end of May.404

Several human rights group issued statements condemning the forced repatriations as a violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement-Cambodia's obligation under the Refugee Convention not to return any person to a country where his or her life or freedom may be threatened.405 On May 22, UNHCR issued a statement expressing concern about the fact that more than one hundred highlanders may have been deported from Cambodia, including "individuals who claimed to be fleeing for political reasons," and called for a proper review of asylum claims before people were forced back to their country of origin.406

Most of the first wave of highlanders to flee from Vietnam, from March through May 2001, fled because of fear of arrest or other reprisals because of their participation in the February demonstrations. A Jarai man who was a leader in the land rights movement in his district, described why he fled to Cambodia:

I fled from my village after I saw forty police ransack my neighbor's house and take him away to jail. I escaped to Cambodia but in my heart I didn't want to come here. I felt I was abandoning the people in Vietnam-not only my wife and children, but also the movement. I didn't come here in order to resettle elsewhere but to get information to our leader so that he could find a way to solve the problem.

Once I got here I realized that I couldn't return to Vietnam or I'd be arrested. The situation hiding in the forest was also very difficult. Police were hunting for us on both sides of the border. We ran out of food, we had no shelter from the rain, and some of us fell ill from malaria. Soon we realized we couldn't stay in Cambodia and we couldn't go back to Vietnam. We asked the U.N. to help us; otherwise we would have been arrested. Now all I wonder is, what about my wife and children in Vietnam-I've had no news about what happened to them after I left.407

Beginning in June 2001, some highlanders who had not attended the demonstrations or even heard about them before they took place, began to cross the border. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, members of this group stated they fled to Cambodia because of longstanding grievances about land, religious repression, or political pressure as former FULRO members. For many in this second wave, the government's crackdown was the impetus to flee Vietnam, whether or not they had been active with MFI or joined the protests. Once they heard that the U.N. had set up secure sites for refugees in Cambodia, where they might obtain help and protection, dozens began to cross the border.

A Jarai man who did not attend the demonstrations said he fled after the protests because there were so many police and military in his village, and also because he had been arrested and threatened three times by local authorities in 2000 and 2001 because of his role as a church leader. "After the demonstrations there was no peace or freedom in my village," he said. "When I woke up one morning, the place was full of soldiers, who'd come at night. There were many police and more than twenty soldiers, who entered each house."408

Others who fled to Cambodia had heard from family members or MFI organizers abroad that the U.N. would help the highlanders establish an independent state. Representative of this group was an Ede man, who was tortured and imprisoned for several months in Buon Ma Thuot prison after the protests. After release from prison, he escaped to Cambodia as soon as he was strong enough to travel. His aim in fleeing was to obtain an independent state:

I fled to Cambodia to meet the upper levels-the international community and the U.N.-to solve the problem of land. I don't ever want to see Vietnamese [people] again, until this problem is solved. I abandoned my wife, my house, my children. I fled to Cambodia to show the U.N. about our struggle for the land of Dega. I want the U.N. to [delineate] clearly the map: which is the area of the ethnic minorities, and which is the area of the Vietnamese. I want the international community to understand clearly that I didn't come here to get rich or to resettle abroad. We just want our land. When we have our land, we can support our families and live freely. We want the world to know that we want justice. We want our own country. 409

Initially, most of the highlanders fleeing to Cambodia expressed little interest in resettlement abroad; instead, they said they had fled in search of a secure place, or in hopes that the U.N. would offer political support for the independence movement. Beginning in June 2001, groups of highlanders fled to Cambodia in hopes of resettlement abroad. Some of the earlier arrivals in the camps eventually began to consider resettlement as well, particularly once they learned from UNHCR staff that the U.N. would not be assisting them in establishing an independent state. Most of those who arrived during the month of July-more than one hundred total-had not attended the demonstrations, but had numerous longstanding complaints about conditions in the highlands and hopes for an independent state or resettlement abroad.

A third wave of highlanders fled to Cambodia in late August and during September, with more than one hundred arriving the last week in August alone.410 Large groups of Jarai from Ea Sup and Ea H'leo districts of Dak Lak fled at that time in order to avoid repressive tactics such as forced oath-swearing procedures such as the "goat's blood ceremonies"411 and other repressive tactics by the authorities. Dozens of others from Gia Lai arrived around the same time, reporting that they had been in hiding in Vietnam since just after the protests-either in the forest or in pits under people's houses in the villages-until they were able to escape. At the end of September, a first group of refugees from Kontum was able to make it across to refugee camps in Ratanakiri. Others, who were in prison from February through May escaped as soon as they were strong enough to make the journey to Cambodia.

Highlanders who fled from Dak Lak at the end of November 2001 reported that the travel restrictions and increased presence of security forces-intended to hamper political or religious activities and refugee flows-was also interfering with normal economic activities such as farming or selling goods. By the end of the year, some highlanders were fleeing Vietnam not only because of fear of arrest or religious and political repression, but also because it was becoming increasingly difficult for many to make a living.

At the end of 2001, groups of highlanders arrived in Cambodia with reports that repression of Christians had worsened further. In December 2001, dozens of Montagnard Christians were rounded up and detained while trying to organize Christmas ceremonies and prayer services. Additional arrests of church leaders were reported in Gia Lai and Dak Lak in January and February 2002, prompting more villagers to flee to Cambodia.

In late 2001 and early 2002, the UNHCR sites began to see a new (albeit small) flow of highlanders. These fled because of reprisals or threats of arrest from Vietnamese authorities because they had served as guides for others attempting to flee to Cambodia or they had helped people hiding in the forest in Vietnam by giving them food or medicine.

As the one-year anniversary of the unrest in the highlands neared, the heavy-handed approach of the Vietnamese authorities in the Central Highlands appeared to be having the opposite effect to that intended. The more closely villagers were monitored to prevent their leaving Vietnam, the greater the impetus to escape an increasingly unbearable situation. Tightening controls at the village level backfired in many instances; it was just this sort of repression that the highlanders had been protesting since February 2001. Nonetheless, by February 2002 the refugee flow came to a virtual standstill when Cambodia implemented a new policy of deporting all new refugees.

The Tripartite Talks

The resettlement of the thirty-eight highlanders to the U.S. in April 2001 infuriated the Vietnamese government, which in turn put immense pressure on UNHCR in a meeting in Hanoi later that same month. After a meeting with the diplomatic community in Phnom Penh on April 24, 2001, UNHCR Regional Representative Jahanshah Assadi announced that protection of first asylum rights and voluntary repatriation would take precedence over third-country resettlement for the time being.412 On May 17, after discussions between Assadi and Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sarkheng in Phnom Penh, UNHCR secured official Cambodian approval to grant temporary asylum to Montagnard refugees currently in Cambodia.413

On July 26, 2001, talks opened between Vietnam, Cambodia, and UNHCR in Hanoi, Vietnam, to discuss the fate of more than 300 Montagnard refugees who were then under U.N. protection at the two sites in Cambodia. A primary subject of the talks was the potential for a voluntary repatriation program for the highlanders. The talks broke down after Vietnam refused to allow the U.N. to have unrestricted access to the Central Highlands to monitor the repatriation. The Vietnamese delegation also questioned the need for any repatriation program to be voluntary, charging instead that the Montagnard refugees were illegal immigrants in Cambodia.

However, after a second round of talks in Phnom Penh on January 21, 2002, Cambodia, Vietnam and UNHCR reached a tripartite agreement on repatriation. The agreement made no mention of the fact that, under international law, any return of refugees to Vietnam must be voluntary and that the right of individuals to continue to seek asylum in Cambodia must be respected.414 In addition, the agreement contained few specifications about post-return monitoring and required UNHCR to obtain permission from Vietnamese authorities before each visit to the Central Highlands. Most importantly, while Vietnamese authorities made numerous public assurances that refugees repatriated to Vietnam would not be punished for having left the country, the agreement carried no protections for Evangelical Christians, and in particular, for leaders of the "Tin Lanh Dega" religion or the movement for land rights and independence.

Within days of signing the agreement, Vietnam announced that it had tried and convicted four highlanders who had been sent back from Cambodia in the late April and mid-May 2001 deportations. In addition, Vietnamese state media reported that Cambodian authorities had forcibly returned eighty-one highlanders from Cambodia to Vietnam. The Vietnamese government made it clear in dozens of press statements that it did not perceive the highlanders in Cambodia as legitimate asylum seekers or refugees, and instead used the word "illegal migrants" or even "illegal escapees" to refer to them.415 Gia Lai provincial governor Nguyen Van Ha told reporters in February 2002: "They are not asylum seekers or refugees, because we did not do anything to force them to flee...All of them...illegally crossed the border into Cambodia."416

A statement issued by the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington, D.C. on February 8, 2002 summed up the stance of the Vietnamese government:

Without a clear future, these Vietnamese citizens who were deceived and enticed to make their illegal border crossing are under miserable living conditions in tents temporarily set up by UNHCR inside Cambodia, experiencing shortages, diseases and sickness. They are not refugees because they have never been suppressed, persecuted or discriminated in Vietnam. Moreover, their families living in Vietnam are longing for their return.417

The VCP daily, Nhan Dan (The People) offered a description of prison-like conditions in refugee camps in Cambodia. It was based on an interview with a village chief in Dak Mil, who was escorted to the Mondolkiri UNHCR site by Cambodian and Vietnamese police to visit refugees there on January 28, 2002:

I saw them live a miserable life. They do not have enough rice to eat. Most of them are suffering from dropsy and malaria. They are kept under surveillance, so many people want to return home but they cannot escape. Some families who went there with all their family members could not escape now because, if only one member of their families escapes, their relatives will be beaten. The people there will die because of hunger or disease if they do not return soon.418

After the signing of the tripartite agreement, Vietnam increased its pressure on Cambodia and UNHCR to immediately repatriate all of the Vietnamese highlanders in Cambodia, who numbered well over 1,000 at that time. As UNHCR made preparations for a first group of fifteen refugees to voluntarily return to Vietnam on February 19, 2002 the tripartite agreement began to crumble, with Vietnam demanding an expedited timetable, obstructing UNHCR's pre-return home visits, and insisting that the repatriation program did not need to be voluntary.419

On February 21, during a visit to Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese deputy prime minister, Cambodia and Vietnam reached an agreement in which the two countries agreed to bilaterally implement the repatriation agreement-with or without UNHCR involvement-and return all of the highlanders to Vietnam by April 30. The following day, Hok Lundy, the director general of the Cambodian National Police, accompanied the governor of Dak Lak province and the Vietnamese ambassador to Cambodia to the Mondolkiri UNHCR site.

Accompanied by fifty policemen and a fire engine, the delegation entered the camp, which was surrounded on the periphery by armed Cambodian soldiers. Using a bullhorn the police summoned the residents of the camp to meet in a barn usually used for church services. The majority of the camp population-approximately 400 people-attended the meeting. The governor of Dak Lak announced that it was time for everyone to return to Vietnam, telling them that they had no choice. People should not be afraid, he said, because they had been tricked by hostile foreign forces into leaving Vietnam. As he spoke, the camp population began to chant "Lies, lies!" The Governor then asked the group, "Who wants to go back, and who wants to stay?" At that, everyone in the hall rose to their feet and shouted that they wanted to stay. Cambodian police in white helmets descended on the crowd, and one officer began to beat people with an electric truncheon. He had hit five people by the time he was physically removed from the hall by a UNHCR staff person and Cambodian police.420

It took twenty minutes to restore order. After several more speeches, in which Hok Lundy made it clear that there would be no third country resettlement of anyone from the camps and that people should start preparing themselves to return to Vietnam, the delegation left the site.

In a subsequent meeting with UNHCR, Hok Lundy reportedly said that there were going to be some changes in the way the tripartite agreement was to be implemented. When questioned as to whether setting a deadline for the return of all Montagnard refugees to Vietnam contravened the spirit of the agreement, the Vietnamese ambassador reportedly said: "Show me the word `voluntary' in that document."

In a statement on February 23, 2001, UNHCR expressed concerns about the incident at the Mondolkiri site, the fact that its monitoring team in the Central Highlands had been refused permission to visit villages of potential returnees on February 21, and the imposition of a deadline by Cambodia and Vietnam for the return of all highlanders from Cambodia. "The introduction of a deadline clearly undermines the voluntary nature of return," UNHCR stated. "In general, UNHCR opposes visits to refugee camps by officials from the countries they have fled." For all intents and purposes, the repatriation program was suspended, for the time being, as Cambodia's policy shifted from accepting new refugees to forcibly deporting all new arrivals.421

On March 2, the tripartite agreement appeared to be further deteriorating, when a group of sixty-one highlanders in UNHCR's Ratanakiri site, who had expressed interest in voluntary repatriation, were escorted back to Vietnam in a bilateral operation conducted by Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities without the involvement of UNHCR.422

That same day, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sarkheng defended national-level instructions to Ratanakiri provincial authorities to deport a second group of sixty-three refugees, who had just arrived in Ratanakiri. "We did not violate any agreement with UNHCR," he said. "They are illegal immigrants, we must send them back. Every country in the world sends back illegal immigrants who cross their borders. This country belongs to Cambodia, not to UNHCR."423

The final blow to the tripartite agreement came on March 21, 2002. Over the objections of UNHCR field staff, Vietnamese authorities transported a delegation of more than 400 people in twelve tour buses from Vietnam to the Mondolkiri UNHCR site to pressure the refugees to return to Vietnam. While many of the visitors were relatives of the refugees, UNHCR officials estimated that as many as one hundred were Vietnamese officials. Several dozen armed Cambodian policemen accompanied the delegation, which was allowed to seek out individual refugees and make searches of their huts. Cambodian police brought out their guns and electric batons, but did not use them, as delegation members threatened and manhandled UNHCR staffpersons and refugees. In response to the incident, on March 22 UNHCR announced its withdrawal from the tripartite agreement and formally terminated its involvement with the repatriation process.424

Flight to Cambodia: Arrest, Mistreatment and Forced Return

More than 500 Montagnard refugees who fled to Cambodia in the year following the February 2001 protests were forcibly returned to Vietnam. Human Rights Watch received reports that some of the returnees-particularly those who led others to flee-were beaten and imprisoned upon return to Vietnam.

Others who were forcibly returned were allowed to return to their homes, but placed under heavy surveillance or house arrest. Some were forced to tell others in their villages not to go to Cambodia and to say that conditions in the UNHCR camps were very poor.425 The families of those who have fled were placed under intense pressure, as described by a Mnong man from Dak Lak:

The police are watching our families and constantly asking where we are, pressing our families to get us to return and report on us to the police. There are many police and soldiers in our villages-they've established a police post in our village.426

Refugees arriving in Cambodia in October and November 2001 described being shown a video, allegedly of the UNHCR sites in Cambodia, at public meetings organized by local authorities. The video showed thin, sickly refugees and stated that there was inadequate food, medical care and shelter at the camps.

In many cases, there was evident close cooperation between Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities in deporting and persecuting refugees, with fees paid on occasion to Cambodian civilians or policemen who turned over refugees to Vietnamese authorities. A partial list of forced returns from Cambodia or arrests in Vietnam of highlanders seeking to flee since February 2001 includes the following:

· On March 26, 2001, the first deputy police commissioner of Mondolkiri province, accompanied by the commander of the provincial Gendarmerie, transported nineteen ethnic Jarai men to the Vietnamese border. The Cambodian authorities then signed documents, together with their Vietnamese counterparts, authorizing the transfer. The group was arrested by Vietnamese police, beaten and detained in the provincial police station and then imprisoned in Chi Hoa prison in Ho Chi Minh City for a week before being released to their villages, where they were placed under heavy surveillance.427

· On April 25, 2001 twenty-four Ede from Buon Dha Prong in Dak Lak were arrested in Vietnam while trying to flee to Cambodia. Members of the group were beaten, kicked, handcuffed, and jailed for a week at the district police station. Afterwards nine were sent to the provincial prisons in Pleiku and Buon Ma Thuot; the rest were placed under surveillance and prohibited from leaving their villages.428

· On April 30, 2001, thirty-two Ede and Jarai from Chu Se district, Gia Lai and Buon Dha Ea Bong, Dak Lak were forcibly returned from Cambodia to Vietnam. Nine members of the group were reportedly imprisoned. In February 2002, two members of the group-Siu Beng and Siu Be-were sentenced to six and a half years and three and a half years of imprisonment respectively, on charges of "organizing illegal migrations." The fact that the group was forced back by Cambodian police, the dates of the return, and the number of returnees was confirmed in a January 2002 article in the Vietnamese government daily, Nhan Dan (The People).429

· On May 8, Y Lim (also known as Dien Y Lien), his wife Maria Nam Linh and their five children-ethnic Mnong refugees who had received official UNHCR protection documents on April 25-were loaded onto a truck in Mondolkiri by Cambodian police and sent back to Vietnam. On April 26, May 1 and again on May 2, UNHCR met with Mondolkiri provincial authorities to secure assurances that persons seeking asylum would not be forcibly returned. The day before the family of seven was forcibly returned, Director General of the National Police Hok Lundy met with U.S. Ambassador Kent Wiedemann and assured him that no deportations would take place.430

· On May 10, 2001, thirty-two highlanders were forced back from Koh Nhek district, Mondolkiri. After being handed over to Vietnamese authorities, the refugees were detained for one night at the border, where they were interrogated intensively about their reasons for trying to leave Vietnam and their involvement with the demonstrations. Some were slapped during the questioning. They were then transported to the prison in Buon Ma Thuot, where they were held for five nights and questioned further. The group was then sent to T-20 prison in Pleiku. Some were released after several days, while others were held up to one month. Three members of the group who were perceived to be most politically active remained in prison as of November, 2001.431

· On May 15, 2001, Cambodian district and provincial police in Ratanakiri province accompanied three vehicles carrying sixty-three highlanders to the Vietnamese border, where the group was deported. Vietnamese officials detained them for one night at the border, where they were interrogated and some members of the group were beaten. The entire group was then transported to T-20 prison in Pleiku, where members of the group were held for different lengths of time. In January 2002, two members of the group-Kpa Hling and Hnoch-were tried and convicted of organizing illegal migrations and sentenced to five and a half years of imprisonment.432

· On May 31, 2001, a group of seven Jarai were arrested in Vietnam three kilometers from the Ratanakiri border when they became afraid and scattered. Two made it to Cambodia but five were arrested by Vietnamese authorities. As of November 2001 at least one of the five was still in prison; it was expected that he could be held for a long time.433

· In June 2001, nineteen highlanders were reportedly imprisoned in Dak Lak after being returned from Cambodia. Their current location is unknown.

· In July 2001, six Ede from Buon Sup, who had fled to Cambodia, were sent back to Dak Lak. At first they were allowed to return to their homes in Dak Lak but later they were apprehended during the night and imprisoned in a "dark place."434

· On August 3, 2001, three Ede men from Buon Cuor Knia who tried to escape to Cambodia in July were beaten severely by public security officers. Two of the men subsequently went missing on August 8; their whereabouts as of March 2002 were unknown. The remaining six were reportedly fearful for their lives.435

· In late August 2001, fifty people who fled Krong Pac district in Dak Lak were reportedly returned to Vietnam by Cambodian authorities. As of early September, these fifty people were being held incommunicado at an undisclosed location.436 There was no further information by March 2002.

· On September 24, 2001, a large group of ethnic Jarai who were attempting to flee from Gia Lai and Kontum provinces to Cambodia were intercepted by Cambodian border police in Ratanakiri. The Cambodian police fired over the group's heads. Most of the group managed to escape, but eight were arrested, beaten and handed over to Vietnamese police in exchange for U.S. $300. The eight were then sent back to Vietnam; their whereabouts as of February 2002 were unknown. Ironically, the next morning another group of Cambodian border police escorted the remaining sixty-eight members of the group of refugees to the UNHCR site in Ratanakiri provincial town.437

· On December 28, 2001, Cambodian authorities in Mondolkiri province forced back 167 highlanders, who had fled across the border from Vietnam after dozens of Montagnard Christians were rounded up and detained in Vietnam while trying to organize Christmas ceremonies and prayer services.438 While some of the women in the group forced back to Cambodia subsequently returned to their villages, a number of the men were still missing as of March 2002.

· In March 2002, there were unconfirmed reports that eighty-one highlanders had fled into Cambodia, where they were arrested and forced back to Vietnam. The official Vietnamese army newspaper, Quan Doi Nhan Dan, carried an article on February 8 in which the reporter said he had met members of the group of eighty-one highlanders deported from Cambodia, some who had returned voluntarily and others "who had been sent back by Cambodian border guards or been saved by Vietnamese forces."439

· On March 2, 2002 Ratanakiri provincial police stated they were following orders from National Police headquarters when they forced back a group of sixty-three refugees to Vietnam over the objections of UNHCR, which was denied access to the group.440

· On March 15, 2002, thirty-five highlanders were deported from Mondolkiri province to Vietnam. The VCP daily, Nhan Dan (The People) reported that Mondolkiri provincial authorities returned the group to the Cambodia-Vietnam border, where they were "welcomed at the border gate by Gia Lai provincial authorities before they rejoined their families."441

391 Article 37 of Cambodia's Law on Immigration states that any alien who enters Cambodia illegally shall be expelled. However, Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Cambodia is a signatory, provides that refugees or asylum seekers not be penalized for having entered a country without the legal immigration requirements, which they may not have been able to meet because of their flight. UNHCR, Handbook for Emergencies, p. 13, June 2000.

392 Agence France-Presse, "Vietnam Critical of U.S. Asylum Offer to Fleeing Minorities," April 3, 2001.

393 Agence France-Presse, "Vietnam Rebuffs Hun Sen, Stands Firm on Repatriation of Fugitives from Cambodia," April 5, 2001.

394 Agencies, "Cambodia lets ethnic refugees go to U.S.; First group flown out as Phnom Penh ignores pressure from Hanoi for repatriation of hill tribespeople," South China Morning Post, April 14, 2001.

395 Voice of Vietnam Radio, Hanoi, "Vietnam Red Cross Society requests return of 24 detainees from Cambodia," April 9, 2001. BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific - Political; Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, April 10, 2001. Nhan Dan (The People), "Vietnam Red Cross asks for return of 24 from Cambodia," April 10, 2001.

396 Human Rights Watch interview with Western diplomat based in Phnom Penh, April 13, 2001. He reported that Vietnamese intelligence agents not only visited the refugees when they were in detention at the municipal Gendarmerie, but were also present in Pochentong Airport in Phnom Penh when the group departed for the United States.

397 Associated Press, "Ten hilltribe refugees from Vietnam depart for United States," April 12, 2001.

398 Human Rights Watch interview with Ede refugee from Dak Lak, April 24, 2001.

399 Thet Sambath and Kevin Doyle, "Mondolkiri Minorities Ask for More Protection," Cambodia Daily, April 23, 2001.

400 Thet Sambath and Kevin Doyle, "Mondolkiri Minorities Ask for More Protection," Cambodia Daily, April 23, 2001. Human Rights Watch, "Deportation of Montagnard Refugees to Vietnam," May 20, 2001.

401 Deutsche Presse-Agentur, "Authorities locate 160 ethnic Vietnamese minorities fleeing political unrest," May 4, 2001. Reuters, "Refugees moved after bounty report," South China Morning Post, May 13, 2001.

402 Kevin Doyle and Seth Meixner, "Montagnards Leave Jungle Under U.N. Care," Cambodia Daily, May 12, 2001.

403 The Ratanakiri provincial police commissioner told rights workers that in facilitating the deportations, he was carrying out an order received several years earlier from the director general of the National Police and the Ministry of Interior instructing police to deport any individuals who enter the country illegally. Human Rights Watch, "Deportation of Montagnard Refugees to Vietnam," May 20, 2001.

404 Matt Reed and Lor Chandara, "Temporary Asylum Granted to Montagnards," Cambodia Daily, May 18, 2001.

405 Amnesty International Urgent Action, "Fear of forcible repatriation," May 10, 2001. Human Rights Watch, "Deportation of Montagnard Refugees to Vietnam," May 20, 2001. Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee Statement, May 22, 2001.

406 Reuters, "U.N. urges Cambodia not to deport Vietnamese," May 22, 2001.

407 Human Rights Watch interview with Jarai man from Gia Lai, March 2001.

408 Human Rights Watch interview with Jarai man from Gia Lai, June 26, 2001.

409 Human Rights Watch interview with Ede man from Dak Lak, July 17, 2001.

410 John Gravois, "116 More Montagnards at U.N. Camps," Cambodia Daily, September 3, 2001.

411 See Case Study XVI, "The Goat's Blood Oath Ceremonies in Ea H'leo," p. 163.

412 Kevin Doyle and Seth Meixner, "Diplomats Meet on V.N. Refugee Issue," Cambodia Daily, April 26, 2001.

413 Chhay Sophal, "Cambodia grants temporary asylum to Vietnamese," Reuters, May 17, 2001.

414 According to UNHCR's Handbook for Emergencies, the necessary conditions for a voluntary repatriation must include safeguards as to the voluntary nature of the return; safeguards as to treatment upon return; and continued asylum for those who do not repatriate and remain refugees. Ensuring the voluntary nature of the return includes guaranteeing that the decision to repatriate is made freely; the refugees are making an informed decision based on an accurate country profile; and the decision is made expressly. UNHCR, Handbook for Emergencies, June 2000, and UNHCR, Handbook, Voluntary Repatriation: International Protection, 1996.

415 Voice of Vietnam Radio, "Vietnam criticizes USA's `brutal interference' in repatriation plan," February 16, 2002, BBC Monitoring Service.

416 Associated Press, "Vietnam Officials Blame U.S. for Refugee Repatriation Delay," February 18, 2002.

417 Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, "On the return of Vietnamese minority people from CPC [sic]," February 8, 2002.

418 Nhan Dan (The People), "Dac Min district hopes for fled members early return," February 21, 2002.

419 Kevin Doyle, "Deadline set for return of Vietnam asylum seekers," February 22, 2002; Reuters, "U.S. opposes deadline for return of Vietnam refugees," February 22, 2002.

420 Human Rights Watch interviews with witnesses, UNHCR Mondolkiri site, February 22, 2002. Kevin Doyle, "Cambodian police use batons in U.N. camp-witnesses," Reuters, February 23, 2002. Seth Meixner, "Beatings of Montagnards Condemned," Cambodia Daily, February 25, 2001.

421 UNHCR News, "Tripartite Agreement on Montagnards Under Threat," February 23, 2002. Agence France-Presse, U.N. suspends repatriation of Vietnamese refugees from Cambodia," February 23, 2002.

422 According to the terms of the tripartite agreement, voluntary repatriation from Cambodia was to occur only after UNHCR had monitored village conditions in the Central Highlands in an "effective and credible" manner. In addition, UNHCR staff members were to accompany returnees back to Vietnam, and conduct follow-up visits on their well-being after repatriation. See "The Report of the Second Tripartite Meeting on Vietnamese `Montagnards' in Cambodia," Phnom Penh, 21 January 2002.

423 Kevin Doyle, "U.N. concerned over Cambodian deportations," Reuters, March 3, 2002.

424 Agence France-Presse, "UNHCR withdraws from repatriation accord for hill-tribe people," March 23, 2002. Reuters, "U.N. halts Vietnam hilltribe return from Cambodia," March 23, 2002.

425 Human Rights Watch interviews with refugees in Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri, October, 2001. See also Associated Press, "Cambodia Begins Returning Some Hill Tribe Members-Vietnam," August 23, 2001.

426 Human Rights Watch interviews on October 31, 2001 with ethnic Mnong men who were screened out of the UNHCR site in Mondolkiri in June 2001 and returned to Dak Lak, Vietnam. Some returned to Cambodia again in September 2001.

427 For documentation and more details see Case Study XVII, "Arrest and Torture of Highlanders Deported from Cambodia," p. 166.

428 Human Rights Watch interview with Ede men from Buon Dha Prong, October 29, 2001.

429 Nhan Dan (The People), "Four receive jail terms for organizing illegal migrations," January 28, 2002.

430 Kevin Doyle and Thet Sambath, "Missing Family Sought Only Safety in Cambodia," Cambodia Daily, May 10, 2001; Reuters, "U.N. searches for Vietnamese missing from Cambodia," May 13, 2001; Amnesty International Urgent Action, "Fear of forcible repatriation," 10 May 2001, AI Index: ASA 23/003/2001. Human Rights Watch, "Deportation of Montagnard Refugees to Vietnam," May 20, 2001.

431 Interviews with Jarai men from Gia Lai, November 2001.

432 Such deportations amount to a possible violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, or the prohibition under the 1951 Refugee Convention on returning refugees to any country where their life or freedom would be threatened or they are likely to face persecution. The fact that the group was deported by Cambodian police, the dates of the deportation, and the number of returnees was confirmed in a January 2002 article in the official Vietnamese government daily. Nhan Dan (The People), "Four receive jail terms for organizing illegal migrations," January 28, 2002. See also, Human Rights Watch, "Deportation of Montagnard Refugees to Vietnam," May 20, 2001.

433 Human Rights Watch interview with a Jarai man whose relative was detained at the time of the incident, October 17, 2001.

434 Human Rights Watch interview with relative of one of the people imprisoned, July 27, 2001. Such deportations amount to a possible violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement, or the prohibition under the 1951 Refugee Convention on returning refugees to any country where their life or freedom would be threatened or they are likely to face persecution.

435 "Report on the Protestants' Situation in Dak Lak Province," September 3, 2001, written by a Protestant church leader in the Central Highlands who asked to remain anonymous. Vietnamese language document and English translation on file at Human Rights Watch.

436 "Report on the Protestants' Situation in Dak Lak Province," September 3, 2001, written by a Protestant church leader in the Central Highlands who asked to remain anonymous. Vietnamese language document and English translation on file at Human Rights Watch.

437 Thet Sambath, "Montagnards Reportedly Sold to Vietnamese," The Cambodia Daily, October 2, 2001.

438 Human Rights Watch interviews with a Western diplomat in Phnom Penh and UNHCR field staff in Cambodia, who confirmed the report with national-level and provincial authorities, January 2002.

439 Associated Press, "Report: 81 more Vietnamese minority people flee to Cambodia," February 6, 2002; Steve Kirby, "New exodus of Vietnam hill people clouds U.N. repatriation efforts," Agence France-Presse, February 6, 2002; Agence France-Presse, "Hanoi daily says Cambodia `sending back' asylum-seekers," February 8, 2002.

440 Kevin Doyle, "Cambodia deports 63 hilltribe asylum seekers," Reuters, March 2, 2002.

441 Viet Nam News Agency, "Gia Lai Province Welcomes Another 35 Illegal Migrants," March 15, 2001.

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