Prime Minister Hun Sen denounced the Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) on Wednesday for its “extremist” position on immigration in the Kingdom, even comparing the party’s president, Pich Sros, to Pol Pot.
Sros had previously held the national spotlight for initiating the lawsuit that eventually led to the dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and additionally suing three activists for allegedly embezzling funds meant for slain political analyst Kem Ley’s funeral stupa.
However, in a speech at the Royal Academy of Cambodia last month, he declared he would deport illegal immigrants from the Kingdom within eight hours if his party won the July 29 national elections.
“People who live here illegally, you need to go out. And don’t say eight hours is not enough time for even preparing documentation. Illegal immigrants don’t have any documents at all.
“If you came by boats, you will go out by boats. If you come by airplanes, you need to leave by airplanes. If you came by trucks, you can get out on trucks,” Sros said.
Speaking at a meeting with garment workers in Kampong Cham province’s Choeung Prey district, Hun Sen strongly condemned the policy, although he did not directly name Sros when he labelled the CYP’s position as “extremist”.
Mistakenly switching the figure to eight days instead of hours, the CPP leader compared Sros to Khmer Rouge leaders who oversaw the killing of Vietnamese immigrants while in power from 1975-1979.
“Some person says he will need only eight days to dismiss all immigrants from Cambodia. Eight days will not be enough unless they shoot them all.
“But even if you had enough guns, you won’t have a chance to kill them. So don’t talk about such extreme measures or the math formula used by Pol Pot,” Hun Sen said.
In reply, Sros told The Post on Wednesday that the prime minister had the right to speak as a politician, and that the CYP had strategies to execute its policy, provided it wins the election.
“When I become prime minister, we have the will to clean all illegal immigration. I want to make sure that this applies only to illegal immigrants. It will not apply to all immigrants.
“Therefore, for illegal immigrants, eight hours is not too short a time. Eight hours is enough time to force them out of Cambodia because we need order like other countries,” he said.
Pointing Hun Sen’s comments back to his government, Sros claimed that it showed the government had no intention to force out illegal immigrants.
Young Analyst Group headHang Vitou called Sros’s policy “demagogy” rather than a real solution.
“Which mechanics should we use to solve that problem? If [removals are done] in eight hours, it will be by force like during the Lon Nol regime or Pol Pot regime. Diplomatic and other problems would occur.
“Today, it is difficult to differentiate between Vietnamese and Khmer. I see Sros’s statement as politically motivated rather than offering a practical solution to the problem,” Vitou said.
Based on a report last year from the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration, around 70,000 “illegal” citizens, mostly ethnic Vietnamese, reside in Cambodia.
In February this year, the government said it was opening a path to citizenship for those with “irregular” documents, many of whom had resided in the Kingdom for generations. Rights advocates said the move effectively rendered many stateless when their documents were revoked.