A GROUP of ethnic Khmer Krom who say they are fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region are making a public appeal to a UN-appointed rights watchdog, claiming Cambodian officials have not been receptive to their pleas for citizenship.
Thach Soong, a representative of 19 Khmer Krom still seeking asylum after fleeing to Phnom Penh following their deportation from Thailand on December 5, said the government has ignored their repeated requests to formally recognise them as Cambodian citizens.
The group now hopes the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, who began his second official visit to the Kingdom on Monday, can step in.
“We know he is visiting Cambodia, so we want to ask him for help,” Thach Soong said.
“If he doesn’t help us, then we will die.”
The group has remained in limbo since arriving in December. They have asked for formal identity cards, food, housing and official recognition as Cambodian citizens.
They had no confidence in the government’s ability to help them.
Officials have so far brushed aside requests for identity cards and housing, causing alarm among the asylum seekers.
Already, five among the group – a woman, two men and two girls – have returned to Thailand in another attempt to seek asylum there, Thach Soong said.
“They had no confidence in the government’s ability to help them,” he added.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment Monday. But he has previously said that any Khmer Krom is entitled under the constitution to live in Cambodia.
Accused monks hiding
Also, five Khmer Krom monks who claim police are accusing them of distributing anti-Vietnamese leaflets that have outraged senior government officials remain in hiding.
“We dare not show our faces, because we fear arrest,” said Liv Phally, one of the five, who believe authorities have targeted them.
Interior Ministry officials, however, have stated that they have never threatened to arrest the monks.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THARUM BUN