Asia-Pacific

Cambodia closes centre for Vietnam Montagnard refugees

Vietnamese Montagnards are airlifted to Phnom Penh in 2004
Hundreds of Montagnards have fled to Cambodia since 2001

A UN refugee centre in Cambodia is closing after the government ordered it to stop operating.

The centre had taken in indigenous minority Montagnard people from the central highlands of neighbouring Vietnam.

They are mostly evangelical Christians who claim they have been persecuted because of their beliefs.

Human rights organisations have urged Cambodia to stand by its commitment to the UN convention on refugees.

There have been mixed messages from the Cambodian government; it had said asylum-seekers from Vietnam would be turned back at the border.

Later it stated that it would use immigration and refugee laws to assess people claiming refugee status.

Human Rights Watch says it is concerned that future asylum-seekers may not be treated "according to international standards".

But the Jesuit Refugee Service says it is glad the facility is closing as it has been "the equivalent of a detention centre".

Only 20 people are still at the centre.

Ten of them will be resettled in a third country - but the remainder failed to get refugee status and will be deported to Vietnam this week.

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