Cambodia rebuffed Vietnam’s request to provide nationality to its citizens living in Kratie, Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces, with officials saying law enforcement is the Kingdom’s responsibility.
Chheang Vun, the head of the National Assembly’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Propaganda and Information, told reporters on Monday that tense talks had been held with Vietnam and Laos over the weekend at the seventh conference of the three countries’ National Assembly committees for external relations.
The conference, held in Ha Long city in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province on Saturday and Sunday, addressed the national assemblies’ roles in promoting and implementing an agreement on cooperation in the Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam (CLV) Development Triangle Area.
Vun said the three parties discussed topics such as trade and investment, border concerns, drugs, illegal timber trafficking and the issue of Vietnamese people living in Cambodia.
He said Vietnam asked the Kingdom to provide Cambodian nationality to Vietnamese people living in Kratie, Mondulkiri, Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces but he replied that he could not agree because the Kingdom needed to protect its interests.
“Vietnam asked why we did not provide nationality for Vietnamese people who had been living in those areas for a long time.
“I and our delegates responded clearly on this issue that we have our laws, including the Law on Nationality and the Law on Immigration. We cannot automatically grant nationality for Vietnamese people living illegally in our country.
“It is an issue of territory as well as nationality. If any party concedes ground, our political enemies will accuse us of treason. It’s very important. We cannot allow it to happen. The stance of the government to protect its territory and nationality is not arbitrary,” Vun said.
On May 28-30, National Assembly president Heng Samrin visited Vietnam and met with its National Assembly chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.
Ngan requested the Cambodian government to pay more attention to the plight of 1,860 ethnic Vietnamese families who were relocated from the Tonle Sap Lake to live on the mainland.
General Department of Immigration deputy director-general Keo Vanthan said on Tuesday that Cambodia has more than 80,000 legal immigrants, around 90 per cent of whom are Vietnamese.
He said if the authorities find immigrants living illegally in Cambodia, they would be immediately deported. “There is no illegal immigration [in Cambodia]. When we find them, we deport them,” Vanthan said.
General Department of Identification deputy director-general Top Neth said that since 1999, nearly 2,000 foreigners had been granted Cambodian nationality, but he was unsure how many were Vietnamese.
He said foreigners can apply for Cambodian nationality as long as they have a Cambodian spouse, with whom they have been living for at least three years, and have been living here for more than 12 months.
Other foreigners who can apply for citizenship are people who have lived here legally for seven consecutive years, those who make a $1 million investment and have resided in Cambodia for at least 12 months, and anyone who donates at least $3 million in cash.
“Our law on nationality is relatively strict and there are restrictions on naturalisation. If foreigners reside here for seven consecutive years, they can have the right to apply. But if they fail to live legally, they will not be considered,” Neth said.
Political analyst Meas Nee said if Vietnam had requested Cambodia to grant nationality to its citizens, it was an attempt to violate Cambodia’s sovereignty.
“If Cambodia follows Vietnam’s request, Cambodia will lose its sovereignty. Cambodia’s rejection is correct,” Nee said.