The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said it had formed a working group to draft amendments to the Law on Immigration.
Its secretary of state Sok Phal told The Post that the amendments will strengthen the management of immigrants in line with the current situation.
Made up of 12 members, he said the working group will ensure the amended law applies more effectively to all classes of immigrant.
He said during a meeting on Tuesday, the working group had instructed the relevant institutions to conduct a deeper study into the essence of the law before filing a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen for consideration.
“We have already convened two meetings to check the primary essence of the law. We have not studied it in depth as yet. At the last meeting, we decided that members will be divided into smaller groups, with each carrying out studies in line with their expertise,” he said.
“Our immigration law was passed in 1994, so it has been more than 20 years already. Cambodia has made progress in all sectors, especially those related to foreigners.
“We are now amending the law to update it and ensure the more effective management of foreigners who live and work in Cambodia, just like in other countries,” he said.
Phal said the General Immigration Department had, among others, conducted a census of foreigners who had been living in Cambodia for a long time.
He said the census had found that some foreigners held improper administrative documents which the department had since revoked.
While the department had received application forms from foreigners who registered as legal immigrants, he said it had also deported others who were not eligible for immigration.
Immigration officials, he said, had also been warned against issuing valid documents to foreigners who were not eligible for immigration status.
“We will take legal action against officials who issue documents to foreigners in contravention of the law. Over the years, the ministry has not only warned but imposed fines on a large number of officials who failed to follow the law,” he said.
Ministry secretary of state Bun Hun declined to comment on Tuesday.
But, when addressing attendees at Tuesday’s meeting, the ministry’s Facebook page quoted him as saying that the existing immigration law was outdated and needed to be amended.
In the meantime, he said the working group will conduct an in-depth study to root out all problems faced by foreigners over the years and to seek more inputs before injecting them into the new draft law.
“Immigration problems occur everywhere in the world and have become worse. So the working group has to be attentive and study all the issues thoroughly to ensure that the new law corresponds to present-day situations,” he said.
Rights group Licadho’s head of monitoring Am Sam Ath welcomed the amendments. But he said the draft law could be counterproductive and affect society badly if it is not implemented properly.
“The current immigration law is not good enough to control immigrants to Cambodia. Over the years, we’ve had many problems with foreigners.
“If the law is amended to help foreigners stay in Cambodia illegally, it will have a bad effect on the country,” he said.
A report issued by the General Department of Immigration showed that as of July 17, last year, police had revoked 37,441 administrative documents held by 20,093 families. This involved a total of 69,871 people.
Ten nationalities were affected, most of them Vietnamese. The improper documents included ID cards, residence and family books.