Vietnamese Christians arrested and deported from Cambodia

( [email protected] ) Apr 22, 2004 02:47 PM EDT

Following the reported violence in Vietnam last week, Cambodian police have arrested and deported around 160 Christians who crossed the border as they attempted to flee for safety. The Christians are members of a Vietnamese ethnic minority known as the Montagnards.

Since Saturday, April 10, there have been claims that "hundreds" of the villagers in the central highlands had been killed during a peaceful demonstration against religious oppression at which reportedly thousands of Montagnard Christians took part in. There have been no independent confirmation of the allegations, and other reports spoke of a multitude of arrests and injuries, but no deaths.

At the time, there was concern that the incident might spark a refugee movement with people heading for the Cambodian border, such as the mass exodus to Cambodia three years ago following a similar demonstration that was crushed by the police. However, Cambodia had closed the border to refugees.

The Cambodia Daily reports that unidentified human rights groups stationed on the border of north-east Cambodia have said that they have received news that police arrested 100 Christian tribes in the Mondulkiri province on April 12, and 60 more Christian tribes people on April 14. Police were not immediately available to comment on the report.

All Montagnards who entered Cambodia have not been caught yet, however according to sources, “Vietnamese soldiers and police are traveling freely on Cambodian soil, hunting for those people.”

Last year, in an oral statement to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, a Christian campaign group highlighted the dangers to Christians in Vietnam. According to the Jubilee Campaign, the indigenous Degar people of the Central Highlands face intense human rights abuse from the Vietnamese authorities including anti-Christian persecution and executions.