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Vietnam accuses UNHCR of instigating refugees exodus to Cambodia

Dec 29, 2004
AP via Yahoo!

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - State-controlled Vietnamese media on Wednesday accused the
United Nations' refugee agency of stirring up an exodus of ethnic minorities
from Vietnam's restive Central Highlands into Cambodia.

A front-page article in the World Security newspaper accused two staff from the
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees of training 13 Central Highlanders to
instigate others to flee to Cambodia.
 
The paper identified the two as Katy Grant, deputy head of a refugee camp in the
Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, and Y Xuan, a Cambodian of Vietnamese origin
who is a translator in the camp.
 
The two also issued documents for the 13 highlanders, who were staying at the
Phnom Penh camp, to return to Vietnam so they could prod ethnic minority members
to flee, the paper said.
 
The two "had turned the refugee camp into a place to train people how to create
disturbances and send them back to Vietnam," it said.
 
Thamrongsak Meechubot, the UNHCR representative in Cambodia, rejected the
accusation.
 
"For this kind of thing, we don't even need to answer because this is clearly
baseless. UNHCR would not do this kind of thing. We have no involvement in
political issues in any country. Our assistance is purely humanitarian," he
said.
 
He said the 13 refugees had left the Phnom Penh camp for Vietnam on their own
because they missed their families.
 
More than 1,000 ethnic minority members, collectively known as Montagnards, fled
Vietnam's Central Highlands after a 2001 crackdown on protests by the
minorities, many of whom are Christian and claim the government persecutes them.
Vietnam is predominantly Buddhist.
 
The refugees have been resettled in other countries, mostly the United States.
The U.N. still shelters about 700 Montagnards at camps in
Phnom Penh and in Cambodia's Ratanakiri town.