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NGOs urge action on foreign workers

A recent conference, sponsored by the Khmer Institute for Democracy, brought together

representatives from numerous Khmer NGOs and was designed to discuss issues including

the Khmer Rouge and immigration issues.

The Nov. 28 discussions found consensus on the need for both a new set of foreign

worker laws and the need for continued discussions with the Khmer Rouge.

"I want to urge the new government to adopt a policy limiting foreign labor

in this country," said Sar Sophea, one of the conference attendees.

"We appreciate foreign investors, but we don't want them bringing in foreigners

to do low-skilled work, such as construction work, carpentry and other small services.

And I want to bring attention to the problem of many Khmer people becoming unemployed,

" Sar, said.

There was no agreement on the exact figures of the number of Vietnamese families

who are living around Tonle Sap lake and along the Mekong River, not to mention those

included in Phnom Penh , although it was estimated that there were at least 3,500

Vietnames families in total. Concern was raised over the hundreds of other illegal

foreign people who have being working in Cambodia.

Sar stated that there are many illegal immigrants unaccounted for such as Vietnamese,

Thai and people from other neighboring countries.

The students in attendance complained that the government should not give more privileges

to the foreigners working in Cambodia. "As you see there are many Vietnamese

in this country and I'm not saying that all the Vietnamese should leave but they

should please respect Cambodian territory and Cambodian people, and the government

needs to consider this situation," he said.

Emphasis was placed on proposals to require the government to control illegal foreign

workers in order to allow Cambodians to find work.

One student also requested the government to let Cambodian citizens have the right

to get passports, not only in emergencies .

Concerning the Khmer Rouge, attendees supported the idea of roundtable discussions

which were scheduled to take place this month. Sar Cheang, the head of Khmer Student

and Intellectuals Association, said, " We would be pleased if the new government

and KR talk rather than fight. We don't want Cambodian people suffering anymore."

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