UN Forces Christian Refugees Back to Vietnam

On March 2 Cambodian authorities forcibly repatriated 63 predominantly Christian Vietnamese tribal members-known as Montagnards-who were seeking asylum in Cambodia. Another 61 refugees from a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees camp who reportedly had "volunteered" to return were also repatriated. But Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities refused to allow the commissioner any participating role, violating a Jan. 21 agreement. Observers fear that if international condemnation and consequences are not swift and meaningful, the fate of the remaining 1,000 Montagnard refugees in two camps will be sealed, and they will all be forced to return. Vietnam's tribal peoples are collectively known as Montagnards. One year ago Vietnam's tribal minorities shocked authorities when thousands marched on government buildings in central highland cities to protest a lack of religious freedom and the loss of much of their traditional lands. Vietnamese authorities responded with a massive military and security crackdown. Many Montagnards fled their homes, some disappeared and more than 1,600-almost all Christians-crossed the border into Cambodia.