Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Krom plead for citizenship



Khmer Krom plead for citizenship

Khmer Krom plead for citizenship

091225_01f
Khmer Krom asylum seekers, recently deported from Thailand, at their temporary shelter in a Phnom Penh pagoda on Thursday.

A group of 24 deportees from Thailand have arrived in Phnom Penh to seek government assistance.

A GROUP of 24 Khmer Krom asylum seekers recently deported from Thailand arrived in Phnom Penh on Wednesday in a desperate bid to have their Cambodian citizenship confirmed by the government.

The group, part of an ethnic minority from the Mekong Delta region in Vietnam, were deported from Thailand on December 5 after fleeing Vietnam. They had been sheltered by the Independent Democratic Association of Non-Formal Economy in Banteay Meachey’s Poipet town.

Members of the group – which is currently staying at Wat Angtaminh near Phnom Penh International Airport – say they fear severe repercussions from the Vietnamese government if they are deported.

Members of the group say that when they fled Vietnam, they lost their homes and many possessions. Huynh Ut, 33, said his father is now disabled as a result of abuse by Vietnamese authorities. “They broke his skull and beat his body, and shocked him” with a stun device, he said. “After three months, the starvation made him disabled.”

Another member of the group, 56-year-old Choav Heng, said: “Yesterday, we went in to meet the UNHCR to fill in forms and register with the government so they can start to help us,” referring to the UN refugee agency. “We have sent many letters to the Ministry of Interior so they could see this case and try to help us, but we have not received a response. We have also written to the National Assembly, many NGOs and human rights organisations because we are in great difficulty. We don’t have any food. We don’t have any money. We don’t have anything for our daily lives.”

Though hungry, poor and with no place to live, the biggest worry for his group, said Choav Heng, is the constant fear of being sent back to Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese government still wants to catch us,” he said.

“We need protection. Because we are Khmer Krom, we would like the government to give us some security and confidence.”

He added: “We need the government and UNHCR to accept us as Cambodian people. We would like the government to help find us a place to stay near schools and markets. We also need land for agriculture.”

He said the group needed “help from the government with identification cards or any documents we need” to become Cambodian citizens. “For me, I would just like a place. A good place, any place that they can give us. We find it hard to be understood, [but] I hope in Cambodia we will be more accepted and better off.”

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak has said that if they are in Cambodia and ar Khmers, they have an automatic right to citizenship, but also, earlier this month, that the arrivals had not yet been clearly identified as ethnic Khmers.

He did not detail exactly what the identification process involved.

“The asylum seekers must realise that the right for asylum is no longer under the authorisation of the UNHCR,” he said.

The UNHCR could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR spokeswoman in Bangkok, said on December 15 that the deportees had been at various stages of their asylum applications at the time of their deportation from Thailand.

She said the UNHCR regarded their deportation as a “serious matter” and had taken up the issue with the government in Bangkok.

“Our position is that no asylum seekers should be deported from Thailand unless their appeals have been processed and it has been properly established that they do not require international protection,” she said at the time.

She went on to add that there are “orderly procedures” for returning unsuccessful applicants to their countries of origin.

Striking similarities
The plight of the recent arrivals to Phnom Penh follows the deportation of 54 Khmer Krom, also by Thai police, in June.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said the 54 were subsequently smuggled back into Thailand to make another bid for asylum. He said “more than 10” of the current deportees were also deported in June.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Courts’ decisions now published as reference source

    The Ministry of Justice has published 44 verdicts from civil litigation cases which can be used as models for court precedents and for study by the public and those who work in pertinent fields. Publication of the verdicts on December 31 came as the result of joint

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • China firm to develop Mondulkiri airport

    Tourism to the Kingdom’s northeast corridor could experience a remarkable metamorphosis after the government decided in principle of a Chinese company to study and develop a proposal to build a regional-level airport in Mondulkiri province, according to industry insiders. The Council of Ministers said

  • More than 5K workers rush from Thailand amid outbreak

    Following the recent outbreak of Covid-19 in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon province, Cambodian migrants working in Thailand were gripped by worry over the situation and many rushed to return to their homeland. Over the past 10 days, more than 5,000 migrant workers have returned from Thailand through