Geneva, 11 April, 2005

Today, Mr. Kok Ksor, President of the Montagnard Foundation and member of the General Council of the Transnational Radical Party took the floor at the Geneva Commission on Human Rights to call for an immediate intervention by the United Nations to protect the Montagnard people, particularly the hundreds of refugees currently in Cambodia who are under the constant risk of deportation to Vietnam. Mr. Ksor denounced the lack of protection and the inaction by the competent international organizations.

Since last year Easter peaceful demonstrations when dozens of thousands of Montagnards were asking for religious freedom and the return of their ancestral lands, hundreds of Montagnards have been fleeing to Cambodia in the attempt to escape the arrests and the acts of torture and violence perpetrated by the Vietnamese authorities. Many Montagnards, as reported by some indipendent organizations, were arrested by the Cambodian police and literally sold to the Vietnamese police in exchange of money.

Recently, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Governments of Cambodia and Vietnam regarding over 700 Montagnard asylum seekers currently in Cambodia. In Geneva, Mr. Ksor spoke on behalf of more than 300 refugees, who have asked the Trasnational Radical Party to deliver an appeal to the UN, in order to ensure that UNCHR and NGOs have free access to the Central Highlands to monitor the human rights situation.

At the presence of the representatives of the 5e members of the Commission, Ksor said also that:
…“Ultimately the Montagnard issue will not be resolved unless the underlying concerns facing the Montagnards are addressed, namely religious persecution and the loss of our ancestral lands in Vietnam”.

61st Session, Geneva, March 14 – April 22, 2005
item 15: indigenous issues

delivered by: Mr. Kok Ksor on April 11, 2005

Mr. Chairman,

My name is Kok Ksor and I speak on behalf of the Transnational Radical Party.
In the year 2005 Montagnard refugees continue to be hunted down by Vietnamese police who pay bounties to Cambodian police for arresting them. Upon their return to Vietnam many refugees are subjected to harsh reprisals, torture and imprisonment.

On 25 January 2005 the Government of Cambodia, Vietnam and UNHCR signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding over 700 Montagnard asylum seekers currently in Cambodia. Their fate remains in question and representatives of more than 300 refugees in Phnom Penh have asked the TRP to deliver this appeal to the UN.

The current Memorandum of Understanding is flawed and dangerous because it does not contain any explicit guarantees that Montagnard refugees (or those not deemed refugees) who are returned to Vietnam will be effectively protected by the UNHCR.

Any attempt to return Montagnard refugees to Vietnam without guaranteeing their safety inside Vietnam will fail in the long term as returned refugees face reprisals. Thus the most logical solution is a permanent one, namely to ensure that the Vietnamese government permits international observers as NGOs, UNHCR and other UN agencies to have free access to the central highlands where the human rights situation can be monitored and Montagnard people protected.

Since 2002 the United Nations Human Rights Committee has requested Vietnam a permanent presence of monitors in the region but the Vietnamese Government still defies its international obligations.

Mr. Chairman,

We ask that under no circumstances should the Montagnard refugees be returned to Vietnam unless international monitors are granted permanent presence to the region to guarantee their protection.

Ultimately the Montagnard issue will not be resolved unless the underlying concerns facing the Montagnards are addressed, namely religious persecution and the loss of our ancestral lands in Vietnam. It is imperative to the Montagnard people that religious freedom, human rights and land rights are fully and permanently guaranteed to them.

Land rights and self-rule are legitimate rights for our indigenous people and now our people found itself driven into poverty while being systematically dispossessed of our ancestral lands by the Vietnamese authorities. As Mr. Kofi Annan has recently affirmed, the TRP calls to this Commission to apply the highest human rights standards in the fulfillment of its mandate in order to protect the oppressed people of the world.