The first results of Cambodia’s countrywide census of foreigners were dismissed by rights workers yesterday as “unbelievable”, as four more undocumented Vietnamese workers were deported from Ratanakkiri province.
Chea Bunthoeun, provincial deputy police chief in charge of immigration, told the Post that the census found a total of 190 Vietnamese families in the province, or 600 people, compared to 300 Vietnamese families, or 800 people, identified in the 2002 census.
“We found only this number, and it is less than in the past, so there are not many Vietnamese people in this province,” he said.
Bunthoeun added that Vietnamese people were the “only foreign nationals” found in the census.
In an effort to explain the drop in Vietnamese living in the province over the past 12 years, Bunthoeun said people may have returned to their homeland, moved to other provinces or passed away.
Following the authorities’ first deportations on Friday of six undocumented Vietnamese workers found by census officials to be in Cambodia illegally, a further four undocumented Vietnamese migrants were sent back across the border from Ratanakkiri yesterday afternoon.
“We will keep doing that: Deport one after another,” Bunthoeun said.
The census, which is also under way in Pursat province and is soon to start in Kampong Chhnang, has been presented as a government effort to take a more precise count of foreigners living in the Kingdom.
But Chhay Thy, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, dismissed the provincial results as “absolutely unbelievable and unacceptable”.
“We live here every day and see with our own eyes; Vietnamese immigrants have not decreased but have increased by about 10 times after the government granted economic land concessions to Vietnamese companies and after the development of infrastructure took place.”
Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Minority Rights Organisation, has said that it would be difficult for officials alone to collect a “realistic figure” and called for NGOs to be involved in the process.
Opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said the census should be carried out with “full transparency” so that there were no questions regarding its results.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY