A senior Vietnamese official has requested the Cambodian government to pay more attention to the plight of ethnic Vietnamese who were relocated from the Tonle Sap Lake to live on the mainland and pledged to provide more cooperation to help them.
Cambodia has also urged further collaboration between the two countries on security, defence and counter-terrorism.
The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Wednesday that Chairwoman of the National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made the request during a meeting with National Assembly president Heng Samrin, who is currently on a three-day state visit to the country until Thursday.
“Regarding the resettlement of ethnic Vietnamese on the Tonle Sap Lake, Ngan asked the Cambodian side to pay attention to ensuring the lives, interests and assets of relocated people.
“She affirmed that Vietnam will join hands with Cambodia to provide support for them to soon stabilise their lives."
“She spoke highly of Cambodia’s close coordination in granting legal documents to Vietnamese-Cambodians, and urged its relevant agencies and localities to soon issue specific and clear regulations on the rights and obligations of those holding foreign registration cards,” VNA wrote.
Last year, more than 4,000 families living in floating houses on the Tonle Sap Lake, of whom 1,860 were Vietnamese, were ordered to relocate to the mainland by Kampong Chhnang provincial authorities.
The authorities ruled that they were living illegally on the river and damaging the environment and the biodiversity of the lake.
However, some seven hundred families have yet to move, having been given permission to stay until July so they can continue to breed fish under their houses.
Provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun maintained that the Vietnamese nationals had received the same treatment from the authorities as Cambodian citizens, such as helping them construct roads and providing electricity, clean water, schools and hospitals.
“Regarding their security, safety and livelihoods, they are receiving the same attention like everyone else,” Chandoeun said.
The VNA report said Samrin met with Ngan and Politburo member Tran Quoc Vuong – who is also a permanent member of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee’s Secretariat.
“The leaders underlined that Vietnam and Cambodia have paid attention to fostering collaboration in the economy, trade and investment. This was reflected in bilateral trade reaching $4.7 billion last year, a 23.7 per cent year-on-year rise.
“Samrin affirmed the Cambodian legislature’s strong support for the two governments’ efforts to connect their economies, educate younger generations on maintaining and promoting the bilateral fine relations, intensify people-to-people exchanges and cooperation in defence, security, counterterrorism and information sharing, and to orientate border areas towards the building of a peaceful, friendly and developing borderline.
“He took the occasion to thank the Vietnamese Party, state and people for supporting Cambodia in all circumstances, particularly in helping the country escape from the genocidal Pol Pot regime in the past and boosting national development in the present,” VNA said.
Sam Chankea, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told The Post it was the obligation of every country to seek the protection of its citizens.
Likewise, Cambodia should request Vietnam to care for its citizens who work there, including the Khmer Krom, Chankea said, whose rights and freedom are known to be restricted by the Vietnamese authorities.
“The request by Vietnam is nothing unusual. It is the obligation of their state to protect their citizens,” he said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the Khmer Krom are working closely with the UN to demand the right to life and other rights.
“We do not have any ability or obligation to interfere in Vietnamese internal affairs regarding Kampuchea Krom. It is known that France ceded Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam a long time ago,” Siphan said.
Samrin is due to depart Vietnam on Thursday and embark on a three-day visit to Laos.