A Nnew report, to be released today by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, says Khmer Krom – ethnic Khmers from the Mekong Delta in Vietnam – face “insurmountable obstacles” on the path to citizenship in Cambodia.
“Whilst the [government] has repeatedly and publicly declared that the Khmer Krom are considered to be Cambodian nationals ... the reality is that many Khmer Krom face insurmountable obstacles when they try to formalise this citizenship by applying for a citizens’ ID cards,” the report states.
According to the report, Khmer Krom are often identified as Vietnamese by local police officials responsible for issuing ID cards. The police then pressure the Khmer Krom into changing their family names – which are often Vietnamese-influenced – and place of birth.
Ang Chanrith, a former executive director of the Kampuchea Khmer Krom Human Rights Association, said an estimated 30 to 40 percent of Khmer Krom residing in Cambodia, including those who have lived here for decades, lack national ID cards. This can deprive them of the right to own property, employment opportunities, social services, school for their children and other benefits.
Ang Chanrith said that the obligation to establish permanent residence is “the main challenge” for Khmer Krom seeking citizenship. He said Cambodians often do not allow recently-arrived Khmer Krom to use their address for nationality applications out of fear that the government will accuse them of supporting a group that may be viewed as anti-Vietnamese.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said yesterday that Khmer Krom were “automatically” entitled to Cambodian citizenship, but said those who cannot provide a permanent address “should find a permanent home”.
He also said the law does not allow Khmer Krom to use Cambodian territory for activities that are “counter” to Cambodian-Vietnamese relations.
CCHR says the government should refer the permanent address requirement to the Constitutional Council for review, and issue a directive clarifying that Khmer Krom who can demonstrate Khmer ethnicity are eligible for ID cards. The report also calls on the government to end the practice of pressuring Khmer Krom to change their names.