The number of Montagnard-people fleeing their native Vietnam, because of persecution of their Christian faith, is growing, reports Al Jazeera. They initially end up in surrounding nations like Cambodia and Thailand, where they face a stateless future as their refugee status is not recognized.
Thailand and Cambodia are not signatories to the different international treaties that deal with the status of refugees. As such, the Montagnard asylum seekers have been described as undocumented economic migrants. They have no rights or status regardless of their registration with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak told Radio Free Asia that the Montagnards who recently entered his country do not meet the conditions of refugee status because “they do not live under oppression in Vietnam or face any threat due to war or political crisis.”
It leaves the refugees, once they have crossed the border, vulnerable and reliant on the good will and help of NGOs and churches.
In November last year Vietnam’s parliament passed its first law on religion since the communists came to power in 1975. It will come into effect in January 2018. The bill called “The Law on Belief and Religion” was introduced, however, amid extensive criticism from parliamentarians, human rights and other groups who feared this to be a move to restrict religious freedoms rather than protect them.