Cambodia asked to ensure Vietnamese's welfare in relocation plan

By Vu Anh    June 10, 2021 | 06:21 am PT
Cambodia asked to ensure Vietnamese's welfare in relocation plan
Floating houses of ethnic Vietnamese on the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia, May 26, 2019. Photo by Reuters/Rina Chandran.
Vietnam asked Cambodia to ensure the well-being of ethnic Vietnamese after Phnom Penh last week ordered the relocation of floating villages in the capital area.

The Phnom Penh Capital Administration on June 2 announced a plan to dismantle or relocate floating houses, fish farms, and boathouses or any other unregulated and illegal structures in Phnom Penh's Tonle Sap river. Cambodian authorities asked households there to relocate within seven days, saying they would dismantle all illegal works on the river after the deadline, Khmer Times reported.

The reason given for this relocation is that the floating village dwellers "seriously affect water biodiversity, damage water quality, pollute the environment and affect the beauty of Phnom Penh, as well as affect the health of people who use unclean water."

The decision of the Phnom Penh government affects about 700 families, many of whom are of Vietnamese origin.

"Vietnam pays special attention to this information," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said at a press conference on Thursday.

Hang said that during a bilateral meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn on Monday, Vietnam's Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son asked Cambodia to continue resolving the legal status for the people of Vietnamese origin.

Vietnam suggested that Cambodian authorities "ensure the rights and welfare of the Vietnamese community, and enable the people affected to soon return to stability, to either keep their current work or switch to another appropriate occupation and to have full access to essential services," she said.

"Vietnam understands Cambodia’s socio-economic policies and the need to protect its environment, but we also hope that the relocation will follow a reasonable and practical roadmap, and new settlement areas will be arranged with essential infrastructure," Hang said.

Cambodia's Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater body in Southeast Asia. Boasting one of the most fertile ecosystems in the world, it provides 75 percent of Cambodia's freshwater fish catches.

Ethnic Vietnamese are the largest minority group in Cambodia, comprising nearly 50,000 families, or more than 180,000 people, according to data from the Cambodian government, Reuters reported.

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