Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Cambodia

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1997
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Cambodia, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b810.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
An estimated 32,000 Cambodians were internally displaced at the end of 1996. Some 34,400 Cambodian refugees were living in Vietnam, and about 70 were living in other countries. A total of 427 Cambodian asylum seekers were sent home from neighboring countries during the year. The majority, some 360, were returned from Indonesia, including 183 whom the Indonesian authorities returned by force.

Between 1992 and 1993, an ambitious, $3 billion international effort aimed at helping Cambodia recover from years of civil war and genocide succeeded in bringing about democratic elections, the birth of a free press, numerous political parties, and a grass-roots human rights movement. It also facilitated the return home of more than 360,000 Cambodian refugees. The UN and the international community hailed its success. Since then, however, political violence, corruption, repression, the silencing of critics, and continued fighting have threatened to wreck what was accomplished in 1993.

In September, King Sihanouk granted an amnesty to a senior Khmer Rouge leader, Ieng Sary, who split from the Khmer Rouge along with more than 1,000 followers and negotiated a peace agreement with the government. Sary had been Cambodia's deputy foreign minister during the Khmer Rouge's years in power.

Internal Displacement At the end of the year, some 32,000 Cambodians were internally displaced as a result of the Khmer Rouge's continued terrorism and fighting between the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian armed forces (often described as undisciplined and responsible for much of the crime that occurs throughout the country). Many were located in areas that are heavily mined. One aid organization charged that the government had forced a number of displaced persons to resettle in heavily mined areas, a charge the government denied.

In February, some 3,900 displaced persons returned to their homes in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces. Most of those who remained displaced in those provinces were long-term displaced persons who were still unable to return home or who were awaiting resettlement in new sites. Most at risk were the more than 16,500 persons displaced in Siem Reap and Preah Vihear provinces, where fighting between government troops and the Khmer Rouge and Khmer Rouge intimidation of civilians remained heaviest.

Cambodian Refugees/Asylum Seekers According to UNHCR, some 30,000 ethnic Vietnamese Cambodian refugees who fled Khmer Rouge-inspired violence against ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia between 1993 and 1995 remained in Vietnam. Another 4,400 Cambodian refugees, mostly ethnic Chinese who fled to Vietnam between 1978 and 1980, also remained there. No Cambodians repatriated from Vietnam during the year.

During 1996, Indonesia returned some 350 Cambodian asylum seekers who had lived for many years at the Galang Island camp for Vietnamese asylum seekers. In July, a group of 170 returnees initially refused to disembark from the ship that took them back, but finally did so after discussions with UNHCR and Indonesian and Cambodian government officials. Altogether, Indonesia forcibly returned 183 Cambodians during the year.

Ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia Hostility toward ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia continued during the year. According to Amnesty International, "In Cambodia, the ethnic Vietnamese minority are one of the most vulnerable groups in the country. There is widespread discrimination against them...which is reflected in government policies, and in recent years they have been attacked, forcibly exiled, and denied equal protection under the law." In May, Cambodian gunmen killed 14 ethnic Vietnamese living in a floating village on Tonle Sap Lake. On March 9, the Cambodian authorities deported to Vietnam three Vietnamese who they claimed belonged to Vietnam Tudo, a group that opposes the Vietnamese government.

Also in March, 15 ethnic Vietnamese made their way into the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh and requested asylum. Cambodian police prevented 38 others from reaching the embassy. Embassy officials persuaded them to leave the embassy after receiving assurance from the Cambodian government that the authorities would not arrest or deport the members of the group if they abstained from anti-Vietnamese government political activity. Members of the group claimed that they had earlier been arrested by the Cambodian authorities, who suspected them of being Vietnam Tudo supporters.

On December 5, Cambodia deported 19 ethnic Vietnamese who, according to Amnesty International, were subsequently arrested by the Vietnamese authorities. Nine of the 19 had filed asylum applications with UNHCR, which considered them "of concern." UNHCR had requested the Cambodian government not to forcibly repatriate any of the 19 until the agency could assess their asylum claims. The 19 were part of a group of 28 ethnic Vietnamese who were en route to a political meeting in Thailand when Cambodian border guards arrested them. Cambodia released eight members of the group who had Cambodian identity papers and deported to the United States one who held a U.S. passport. USCR wrote to the Cambodian authorities to express its concern over their actions.

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