Cambodia offers ethnic Vietnamese short-term residency in migrant crackdown reprieve

By Minh Minh   February 28, 2018 | 02:44 am PT
Cambodia offers ethnic Vietnamese short-term residency in migrant crackdown reprieve
A Vietnamese woman sits at her house on the banks of the Mekong river in Phnom Penh in a file photo by Reuters
Thousands of Vietnamese fled to Cambodia during war time, and remain officially stateless.

Cambodian officials have promised to grant two-year residency cards to roughly 70,000 ethnic Vietnamese currently facing deportation to Vietnam where they have no legal status either.

Officials said on Monday that they plan to issue the short-term documents to people of Vietnamese origin who can prove they arrived in Cambodia before 2012.

There will be an application process but most people are likely to pass, officials said, as cited by the Phnom Penh Post.

A drive to revoke their Cambodian documents, which were deemed “improperly issued”, has rendered many of them stateless, as they have no Vietnamese citizenship either.

Nouv Leakhena, deputy head of the Immigration Department at Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, said the government recognized that many ethnic Vietnamese have lived in Cambodia for up to 30 years, some since before the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Immigration officials cannot be nationalistic,” he said, as cited in the report.

People of Vietnamese origin who are granted residency may apply for citizenship after seven years.

Cambodian immigration officials said they arrested and deported more than 1,880 illegal immigrants last year, the vast majority of whom were Vietnamese and Chinese.

Cambodia’s move has raised concerns from the Vietnamese government.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry last November asked Cambodia to provide favorable conditions and guarantee legal rights for the community.

Migrant rights experts also said Cambodia should offer more help.

Lyma Nguyen, an Australian human rights lawyer, told the Phnom Penh Post that documents held by ethnic Vietnamese which were dismissed as irregular should have been accepted as legal, and they should have been recognized as citizens generations ago.

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