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UN refugee agency ‘extremely concerned’ at reported unrest in central Viet Nam

UN refugee agency ‘extremely concerned’ at reported unrest in central Viet Nam

The United Nations refugee agency today voiced “extreme concern” about reports this week of renewed unrest in Viet Nam's Central Highlands and strongly urged neighbouring Cambodia to ensure that any refugees fleeing the area be given access to protection.

“Although we have no way of confirming the reports, we are very aware of the possibility that some people may try to seek protection in neighbouring Cambodia,” Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva, noting that Cambodian authorities had ordered the agency to close its office on the border.

UNHCR established its office in Ratanakiri in early 2001 to help hundreds of Montagnards, as the highlanders are known, who were then arriving from Viet Nam. In all, some 900 Montagnards passed through Ratanakiri and another camp at Mondolkiri. Both sites were effectively closed in late 2001, but the agency continued to maintain a standby office in Ratanakiri until last weekend.

“We still expect we will have access to the region in the event of further arrivals. At this stage, however, we have no indication of any newcomers at the border since the reported recent unrest,” Mr. Redmond said.