14.8.

2003

EN (2003/C 192 E/080)

Official Journal of the European Union WRITTEN QUESTION E-2845/02 by Marco Pannella (NI) to the Commission (10 October 2002)

C 192 E/81

Subject: Renewed persecution of Montagnards in Cambodia and Vietnam Reports have been received from various sources that the Cambodian and Vietnamese police have launched an out-and-out manhunt against hundreds of Montagnards forced to take refuge in the jungle to escape religious and political persecution at the hands of the Hanoi authorities. The sealing-off of the Vietnam-Cambodia border and the closure of refugee camps in Cambodia have been the prelude for further massacres of Montagnards, who have been viciously persecuted by the communist regime in Vietnam for demanding religious and political freedom and are now being prevented from leaving the country. In this context, the statement made by Nicola Mihailovic, the UNHCR director for Cambodia is of the utmost gravity: ‘since February/March we have been unable to go to the border … and even if we are in that province, we are not allowed to move about freely’. According to Mr Mihailovic, ten years after signing the Convention on Refugees, the Cambodian government ‘must be reminded of its obligations towards refugees.’ Did Commission President Romano Prodi protest strongly at the violent infringements of the rights of Montagnards in Vietnam at his meeting with Phan Van Khai, the Vietnamese Prime Minister, on 26 September? Has the Commission stressed to the Cambodian government the imperative need to respect the obligations arising from its signature of the International Convention on Refugees? What initiatives will the Commission take in order to safeguard the fundamental rights of minorities in Vietnam?

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission (8 November 2002) The Community-Vietnam Co-operation Agreement states in its first Article that respect for human rights and democratic principles is the basis of our co-operation. Questions related to the respect for and the promotion of human rights are addressed in meetings of the Community-Vietnam Joint Commission established under the Co-operation Agreement. The Commission, together with the Member States represented in Vietnam, therefore monitors closely human rights developments in Vietnam as part of the policy of the Union to encourage and support the continued commitment of the Government of Vietnam to progress in the field of human rights. The Commission also participates with the Member States in regular dialogue with and in all Union démarches to the Government of Vietnam on human rights issues. Most recently, President Prodi raised our concerns with the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Mr Phan Van Khai, during his visit to Brussels on 26 September 2002. It should also be recalled that, in accordance with the strategy agreed with the Government of Vietnam, a primary focus of Community-Vietnam Development Co-operation is in the ethnic minority areas of the country. In relation to some of the particular events mentioned in the question a ‘manhunt against hundreds of Montagnards’ and ‘further massacres of Montagnards inside Vietnam’ enquiries with Union and other partners in both Vietnam and Cambodia have not yielded any reliable confirmation. As regards the closing of the Vietnam-Cambodia border, the Commission has on several occasions brought up the question of Cambodia’s obligations as a signatory to the International Convention on Refugees with Cambodian authorities. The Commission’s Delegation in Phnom Penh is also closely in touch with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cambodia to receive updated information on the situation in the border areas. The Commission, together with the diplomatic missions of the Union, will follow the developments closely, including the continuing situation in the Central Provinces, and take appropriate action.

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