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VN meddling

Dear Sir,

O n Aug 26, 1994, Cambodia's National Assembly passed the Immigration Law.

Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh, Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet, and Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam wrote to Cambodian leaders and the King calling for amendments to the law. They even claimed that some provisions did not conform with international law and normal practice without specifying them. They also threatened that the adoption of such provision would affect the lives of the Vietnamese living in Cambodia, and the friendship between Vietnam and Cambodia.

This is true Vietnamese interference in Cambodia's internal affairs. Cambodia is an independent and sovereign country that does not need the permission of a foreign country to pass an immigration law and amend it because a foreign country dislikes and wants it too. Is Cambodia a subservient state of Vietnam?

The law applies to all foreign nationals living in Cambodia. It is not intended to discriminate against the Vietnamese. If a foreign national - he can be Vietnamese or Thai - stays in Cambodia illegally he has to be deported.

Cambodia needs to protect its national interest, identity, and border. Cambodia belongs to Cambodians. Cambodia needs to live in peace with its neighbors.

Human rights groups and Vietnam claimed that the law was meant to harass the Vietnamese community in Cambodia. Between 1979 and the 1991 Paris Peace Accord, why didn't the same people say a word about the Vietnamese settlers who entered Cambodia?

Everybody knows very well that the Vietnamese could cross the border very easily without any paper. They came to Cambodia whenever they wanted too. Would any country, such as Vietnam or

Thailand or the US, allow an alien

to come and live illegally?

A most recent history just showed that Thailand didn't even consider the Cambodians who lived in the border camps as refugees. They were considered as displaced people and didn't have any rights whatsoever. Would anybody come to defend them?

So when Cambodia is trying to define the legality of foreign nationals living in Cambodia, to so-called human rights watchers start denouncing the law as bad. Everybody knows that it is very easy to get a Cambodian identification card with a Cambodian name. So what's wrong for confiscating it if the holder is found to be non Khmer? It happens everywhere in the world.

During his visit to Cambodia last April, Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet agreed with the Royal Government of Cambodia to set up two committees to deal with border demarcation and Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia.

Therefore, with the passing of the immigration law in Cambodia, the process of bilateral talks must proceed right away. To help in alleviating the sensitive issue of foreign nationals living illegally in Cambodia, it is important that a survey be conducted as soon as possible to:

  • Determine the exact population of each ethnic group;
  • Establish each person's years of residency in Cambodia;
  • Check whether a person entered Cambodia legally, illegally, or was born in Cambodia;
  • Test whether a person can speak and write the Khmer language;
  • Categorize foreign nationals by professions;
  • As far as the question of Vietnamese settlers is concerned, we need to distinguish two categories of them:
  • Those who have been living in Cambodia for several generations;
  • And those who illegally entered Cambodia.

The former are eligible to continue to stay in Cambodia. The latter must return to Vietnam.

Cambodia needs to start becoming a country of law and order. Now that progress has been made to establish law and order in Cambodia, it is the duty and responsibility of the international community to help Cambodia protect its independence and sovereignty.

- Hann So, President of Khmer Conscience.

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