Petition in Support of Montagnards in Vietnam and Cambodia
On July 20, 2005, despite strong protests from many representatives of the U.S. Government and advocates, approximately 100 Montagnards from Vietnam were forcibly repatriated from Cambodia to Vietnam. Montagnards have long experienced severe forms of persecution in Vietnam due to their Protestant Christian religious practices, land-rights disputes, and past partnerships with the American military. Because there are no effective systems of international monitoring in place in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, many advocates and community members fear that the Montagnards returned to Vietnam will face persecution. Many also suspect that the UNHCR\'s system for screening the Montagnards was flawed, and that many of the people returned to Vietnam could be eligible for refugee status in the United States. We, the undersigned, strongly recommend that the Governments of the United States, Vietnam, and Cambodia, along with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other interested organizations, work together to: (1) Put in place an effective system of international monitoring to ensure that the religious and other rights of Montagnards are respected in the Central Highlands of Vietnam; (2) Ensure that the Montagnards who have been forcibly returned to Vietnam have access to U.S. Government officials who can interview them for to resettle as refugees to the United States. (3) Ensure that Montagnards from Vietnam who remain in Cambodia should all have access to interviews to the U.S. -- whether they have been \"screened out\" by UNHCR or not -- and should not be forcibly returned to Vietnam. Voluntary return should take place only when appropriate protections are in place, including international monitoring in the Central Highlands.