The vast majority of Chinese nationals who have fled to Cambodia from Vietnam since riots broke out in that country early last week are sticking it out here until it is safe to return, a Chinese Embassy official said yesterday, with immigration police estimating that at least 1,600 ethnic Chinese have now crossed the border.
About 100 people fleeing the anti-China protests have returned to their home country on flights from Cambodia, Yang Qing Lian, head of the consular section at the embassy, said, though he added that figure was a rough estimate.
“Right now, I’ve got the information that some Chinese nationals, not too many, have returned to China already . . . but most Chinese people are staying in Cambodia to wait until the situation gets better in Vietnam. So most Chinese people will go back [to Vietnam],” he said.
Only 300 of those who fled to Cambodia have been in contact with the embassy, he continued, making it difficult for officials to keep track of the total group, most of whom are believed to be staying in Phnom Penh.
Mam Yoy, deputy immigration police chief at the Bavet border checkpoint in Svay Rieng, said that more than 1,600 ethnic Chinese have crossed into Cambodia from Vietnam since Tuesday. Most are mainland Chinese, but about 100 are Taiwanese nationals, he said.
“But today, there were only about 30 Chinese coming across, so the situation has returned to normal,” Yoy said yesterday.
The government has welcomed the temporary guests, mostly businessmen worried for their safety, who began crossing the border after factories in Vietnam that rioters believed to be Chinese-owned were attacked last week.
The riots were sparked by China’s decision to move an oil rig into an area of the South China Sea that both nations claim sovereignty over.
On Friday, the Chinese Embassy sent a letter to Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking the government to ensure the safety of those fleeing Vietnam.
According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, more than 3,000 Chinese citizens had been evacuated from Vietnam as of Saturday. Two Chinese have been killed and more than 100 have been injured as a result of the protests, it reported.