The Senate on Monday approved a controversial set of laws on citizenship, claiming the draft would improve the process by which foreigners applied for Cambodian citizenship. However, watchdogs and social media users criticised the move, saying it would make gaining citizenship too easy.
Senate spokesman Mam Bun Neang told The Post on Monday that the draft on citizenship was unanimously passed. He said the Senate’s permanent committee discussed details of the draft and believe the current framework restricts foreigners who already reside in the country and wish to become citizens.
“They [new citizens] will have to meet all criteria. They have to enter legally. Their children will be legal citizens, if they live here legally. If living illegally, their children are born illegally too,” he said.
Bun Neang stressed that the investment requirement was also raised from at least 1.25 billion riel (about $312,000) in a government-approved project, to nearly $1 million.
“We will tighten the limitation to help the government and help our nation . . . It’s not like what others say, that the draft law is to allow citizens of neighbouring countries to live here legally,” he said.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied the accusations from Facebook users and observers, saying their assumptions contradict the truth.
“It is the culture of the opposition to always say something opposite to the truth. In fact, the 1996 citizenship law is more than 22 years old and does not fit current realities. So it is necessary to enact a new law to replace the old,” he said.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, wrote on his Facebook page on Friday that the draft law should determine the amount of money that is proportional to the current market price, and that foreigners who apply for Cambodian citizenship should not be able to hold multiple passports.
“If it was already exchanging money for nationality, it should be a reasonable price . . . Cambodian citizenship should be at least three times higher than in 1996,” Kol wrote. “If the price is too low, foreigners, especially the Chinese and Vietnamese, will be completely happy.”
San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said he believes the law favours foreigners, allowing easy access to Cambodian rights.
“We have concerns, especially toward foreigners . . . Vietnamese who now live in Cambodia. We are worried when this law is implemented,” he said.
Bun Neang said the draft law will be submitted to the Constitutional Council on Wednesday or Thursday for approval. If approved, it will be submitted to the King for his royal ascent.