THE Ministry of Interior has ruled out granting a social land concession to 22 Khmer Krom deportees, following comments made by a Phnom Penh municipal police official on Monday that suggested the group could receive land from the state.
Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the Khmer Krom were no more entitled to a social land concession than any other group of landless poor Cambodians but ruled out deporting them to Vietnam.
“They are not the only poor people in Cambodia: there are many other poor families in Cambodia, many thousands of Khmer Krom deportees in Thailand and more than 14 million in Vietnam,” he said, adding that he suspected the Khmer Krom were being incited by members of opposition parties.
On Monday, Min Sothet, director of statistics and identification for the Phnom Penh Municipal Police said he “strongly believed” the government would provide land for the group in either Mondulkiri or Preah Vihear province.
However, he backed away from his comments on Tuesday, instead suggesting that local and international NGOs should provide money to purchase property for the Khmer Krom in an urban area. “This is the best way to help them live in Cambodia legally,” he said.
The Khmer Krom cannot secure legal identity documents without a registered fixed address – documents they have been trying to obtain since they were deported from Thailand on December 5 last year.
At present they rent a property in Boeung Tumpun commune, supported by financial assistance from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Should the Khmer Krom deportees acquire a plot of land registered in their name, then it will satisfy the requirements of the identity documents they seek. But they have consistently complained that they are unable to rent or purchase property in their name, precisely because they do not have the required legal identity documents.
Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Krom Association, demanded Tuesday that the government grant the 22 deportees a social land concession.
“The Khmer Krom are Khmer – they need to live in a home and have a job like other Khmer people and the government must respond and provide the social land concession to them,” he said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun suggested Tuesday he may be able to help settle the Khmer Krom but refused to commit to anything without the agreement of higher authorities.
“For the 22 Khmer Krom deportees, we can not give a firm decision yet,” he said.