Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed



Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the ministry's annual meeting on Friday in Phnom Penh. Photo suppli
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the ministry's annual meeting on Friday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied.

Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed

The Ministry of Interior plans to retroactively strip citizenship from children of immigrants whom they say were mistakenly awarded Cambodian nationality as long as 30 years ago, according to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and director-general of immigration Sok Phal.

Speaking on Friday during the Immigration Department’s annual meeting, Phal explained that for the last three decades, commune chiefs have occasionally illegally given Cambodian birth certificates, and therefore Cambodian citizenship, to children of non-naturalised immigrants.

“For more than 30 years, the children of migrants got Cambodian citizenship at birth because commune chiefs issued it for them. It is illegal,” Phal said.

“Now, the Ministry of Interior will issue new, different birth certificates to them. The children will get the original citizenship of their parents. If they get Cambodian citizenship through the law, they can change to Cambodian nationality,” he added.

Kheng, who closed the meeting, agreed with the suggestion. “The children of immigrants should get their original citizenship from their parents,” he said.

According to the ministry’s own report, the policy would mostly affect Vietnamese immigrants living in Cambodia. Of the 19,437 families that have legally migrated to Cambodia since 2012, 11,103 of them are Vietnamese. Neither Phal nor Kheng accused any specific commune of wrongdoing, nor did they set out a timeframe for any such review process.

The Kingdom’s Law on Nationality states that citizenship is only conferred by birth upon children who have at least one parent who is a Cambodian citizen, or children whose parents were born in Cambodia, but are not themselves citizens.

The Kingdom’s recent voter registration drive – which required residents to present proof of citizenship – was meant to put to rest longstanding claims of non-Cambodians voting, though the National Election Committee’s review of the new voter list did not include an examination of whether those citizenship documents had been legally granted in the first place.

The opposition, meanwhile, has long railed against what they say are illegal Vietnamese voters casting votes for the ruling party. Others, however, have countered that ethnically Vietnamese Cambodians, even ones whose families have been in Cambodia for generations, are denied access to government documentation and services by virtue of their race.

Political analyst Ou Virak said the current immigration system is in desperate need of reform to prevent these kinds of complications. Calling the citizenship laws “very restrictive”, Virak said the government needs to “come up with better policies and better explanations”.

“The real debate should be whether or not the law should be amended to make the process more reasonable,” Virak said, claiming the CPP has avoided addressing immigration issues because of the party’s controversial ties to Vietnam.

“Their biggest baggage is coming to power as a Vietnam-backed government . . . They don’t want to debate because of that association,” he said.

Moeun Tola, director of migrant rights group CENTRAL, appealed to the government to respect human rights as they prepare to investigate migrants who may have been wrongly granted citizenship.

“Whether they are legal migrants, illegal migrants or legal citizens, their fundamental rights and freedoms should be guaranteed,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from