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Police finish documentation for Khmer Krom deportees

DOCUMENTATION necessary for members of a group of Khmer Krom seeking Cambodian citizenship has been completed, a police official said Wednesday, amid fears that the 22 men, women and children who were deported from Thailand last year will lose the financial support of the NGO sheltering them at the end of the month.

Information for the individuals that was originally collected in January was sent to district authorities Wednesday, said commune Police Chief Tep Bora.

“The documents are complete now,” he said. “Before, it was difficult because the documents lacked information.”

The group was deported from Thailand as illegal immigrants after fleeing Vietnam, where they said they endured constant religious repression.

The asylum seekers have been waiting for formal identification from authorities since arriving in the Kingdom.

The identification cards are crucial for the group to visit hospitals, gain employment, enrol in schools and rent houses.

Five of the original group of 24 have returned to Thailand since December, fed up with government inaction regarding the issuing of the cards.

But a further three have since been deported by Thai authorities and have joined the group at Meanchey district’s Boeung Tumpun commune, where they have been assisted by the rights group Licadho.

Khmer Krom representative Thach Soong, 49, said Tuesday the group is still concerned about the lack of information it has received regarding the processing of the ID cards.

“We have completed the documents to send to the commune office and district office, but we have not heard any information,” he said. “We are still waiting to get legal [recognition] in Cambodia because we want to find jobs to support ourselves.”

He said that time is running out for the deportees, as Licadho can support them only until the end of February, and that their rent will run out at the end of March. “We are concerned about living. We have no jobs,” he said.

Vietnamese crackdown
In the meantime, Vietnamese authorities have banned Khmer Krom in Vietnam from watching television or listening to radio broadcasts from Cambodia, activists said, just a day after Cambodia’s Ministry of Information granted permission to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association (KKA) to produce programme ideas for state radio stations.

Thach Setha, director of KKA, said he had received word from Khmer Krom living in Vietnam that they had been warned against listening to or watching Cambodian broadcasts.

“Vietnamese authorities have released a written prohibition ... banning all Khmer Krom from watching TV and listening to radio from Cambodia,” he said, adding that Vietnamese authorities were patrolling around Khmer Krom houses and some pagodas. Violators “can face a savage fine of up to 10 million dong (US$535)”.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann criticised the prohibition as “racial discrimination”.

“I request that Vietnamese reconsider the stopping of the freedom to access media,” he said. “The Cambodian government ... allows the Vietnamese government and its people the right to set up broadcasting through Cambodia.”

A spokesman from the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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