Thai immigration authorities have deported seven Khmer Kampuchea Krom asylum seekers to Cambodia after the group snuck across the border in a bid to seek resettlement.
Chea Sokun, Banteay Meanchey provincial secretary general for the Independent Democratic of Informal Economic Association NGO, said his organisation was providing temporary shelter to the men following their deportation. The seven, he added, were originally part of a group of 57 Khmer Krom asylum seekers deported from Thailand in 2009 while waiting for their refugee applications to be processed by the Bangkok office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“The seven Khmer Krom asylum seekers have been deported for a second time, and now they are living temporarily with IDEA,” Chea Sokun said, adding that the group was facing “a lack of residence, a lack of food and fear of returning to their home province in Southern Vietnam”.
“Khmer Krom” or “Khmer Kampuchea Krom” are terms for ethnic Khmers who live in or have roots in Southern Vietnam. Rights groups have alleged that Khmer Krom residents of Vietnam have been subject to persecution by Vietnamese authorities. Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment yesterday, though he has said in the past that the government considers Khmer Krom people living in Cambodia to be Cambodian citizens.
But Yang Son, 41, one the seven deportees, said yesterday that he and the others had crossed into Thailand rather than stay in the Kingdom because the Cambodian government had yet to award them citizenship. “The Cambodian government officials have reiterated that they consider the Khmer Krom as their citizens, but they have not provided use with the legal nationality paperwork, so we are afraid that we will be arrested and deported to Vietnam,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yont Tharo, president of the Khmer Krom Cultural Centre in Cambodia, said he was concerned about the case and planned to visit the group.