Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Vietnam

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Vietnam , 25 May 2004, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
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.

Vietnam hosted an estimated 16,000 refugees from Cambodia at the end of 2003. Of those, some 13,000 were ethnic Vietnamese who arrived primarily between 1993 and 1994 and were living in Mekong Delta provinces. Another 3,000 ethnic Chinese, who had arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s, resided in four refugee camps established in 1979 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc provinces and in Ho Chi Minh City.

UNHCR only considers the 3,000 ethnic Chinese – and not the 13,000 ethnic Vietnamese – to be refugees, because they view the ethnic Vietnamese as locally integrated and self-sufficient. The Vietnamese government, however, still considers both groups as Cambodians who are temporarily working and living in Vietnam.

Although the government allows the ethnic Chinese refugees living in the camps to travel anywhere in the country to work, the refugees must obtain permits from the local authorities each time they leave the camps.

Some 300,000 refugees from Vietnam (mostly ethnic Chinese) remained in China, including about 1,000 in Hong Kong. According to UNHCR, most in mainland China have achieved "full local integration." However, because China has not granted them citizenship, they have no status in China other than that of refugees. In addition, Chinese officials occasionally discuss repatriating some of the population. UNHCR, therefore, still considers all of them prima facie refugees and provides limited assistance to some of them.

A further 2,000 Vietnamese refugees – who fled in the 1980s and are not considered refugees under the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), which ended in 1996 – remained in the Philippines without a durable solution. The United States is reviewing them for resettlement in 2004.

Some 5,100 Vietnamese sought asylum in other countries during the year.

Some 120 Montagnard asylum seekers who fled Vietnam in 2001 and 2002 remained in Cambodia at year's end.


(For background, see Vietnam continued to persecute Montagnards, torturing and beating them, and forcing them to "Swear Brotherhood" with local communist party cadres in front of pictures of Ho Chi Min, affirm allegiance to the party, and renounce their religious affiliation. Security officials stationed in villages pressured Montagnards to renounce their Christian faith. Officials who confiscated land reportedly forced Montagnards to sign documents saying that they gave their land voluntarily to the government.

According to human rights groups, Vietnam arrested or detained hundreds of Montagnards during 2003. Human Rights Watch reported that since the unrest broke out in the Central Highlands in February 2001, Vietnam has sentenced at least 124 Montagnards to prison terms of up to 13 years for claiming land rights and religious freedom, organizing Christian gatherings, or attempting to seek asylum in Cambodia.

Montagnards who manage to flee to neighboring Cambodia do not find conditions much better. Vietnam pressured Cambodia to turn fleeing Montagnards back, and Vietnamese security forces cooperated with Cambodian officials to hunt down the refugees, and reportedly offered bounty for their capture. Cambodian authorities forcibly returned more than 100 to Vietnam during the year. Hundreds likely remain in hiding in squalid conditions in the forests near the border of Cambodia and Vietnam to avoid capture. The UNHCR office is only allowed to assist those who reach Phnom Penh and is unable to protect those in border areas where refoulement takes place. It is difficult for Montagnards to reach the capital from the remote border areas, and it is estimated that hundreds tried to flee Vietnam but Cambodian officials blocked their entry.

Other Minorities

Officials targeted church leaders particularly, and ransacked a number of churches and church leader's homes during the year, and confiscated Bibles and personal belongings. The government reportedly forced an unknown number of Protestant members of ethnic minorities to leave their homes and farmlands in the Central Highlands. Officials also prohibited nighttime gatherings and travel outside of villages without written permission. The government harassed ethnic minorities, including the Hmong and the Montagnards, for practicing their Protestant religions without government approval.

Asylum Seekers

Several embassies in Vietnam reported that officials returned North Koreans seeking asylum to China on the grounds they entered Vietnam illegally.

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