Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Vietnamese refugees return home; U.S. believe that religious persecution not a threat

Between 2001 and 2004, thousands of Vietnamese Protestant Christian Montagnards fled to Cambodia during heightened times of religious persecution and land appropriation. However, many of these refugees have been denied permanent relocation in Cambodia and will be forced to return to Viet Nam, the AFP reported on Monday.

While Viet Nam has been internationally known for its lack of religious tolerance, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey said that she had no reason to believe that the Vietnamese refugees would be harmed in any way upon their return. She spoke with a small group of refugees who had already returned to their native Central Highlands in Viet Nam; they affirmed that they received no maltreatment. Human rights groups, however, are skeptical of this claim. In January of 2005, when the U.S., Viet Nam, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees signed an agreement which allowed refugees to return to Viet Nam, Human Rights Watch accused the Vietnamese government of persecuting and detaining some of the returnees.

Sauerbrey also argued that persecution of Protestant Montagnards would be better remedied if it was addressed internally by the Vietnamese government.

“I think that our government and the government of Vietnam share a belief that it is far better for people who fear persecution, oppression for political reasons or ethnic reasons, whatever, for that problem to be addressed inside the country rather than them having to flee to Cambodia,” Sauerbrey said.

For the full article, click here.


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