Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vietnam asks ‘migrants’ rights be respected

Vietnam asks ‘migrants’ rights be respected

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Members of an ethnically Vietnamese fishing community prepare their boats yesterday on the banks of Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Vietnam asks ‘migrants’ rights be respected

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded on Tuesday to reports that Cambodia plans to revoke documents from thousands of ethnic Vietnamese, urging the Kingdom to respect legal rights during the process.

The plan, which the government has said it will start carrying out over the next two months, is said to involve stripping the citizenship of tens of thousands of “foreigners” – many of whom are ethnic Vietnamese who have no citizenship elsewhere.

“We hope that while people are waiting for their legal documents to be completed, they will be able to maintain a stable life and continue contributing to Cambodia’s socio-economic development,” said spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang, according to Reuters.

The Immigration Department announced last week that it had identified 70,000 individuals with “mistaken” documentation, including passports and national identification cards, and would be revoking them in the coming months.

Asked yesterday when the authorities would begin taking away paperwork, department Director Sok Phal wrote by email, “The group is preparing to go down”, without elaborating further or responding to subsequent questions.

Before the Khmer Rouge takeover, many ethnic Vietnamese were granted citizenship under the 1954 Nationality Laws, according to human rights lawyer Lyma Nguyen. After fleeing the Pol Pot regime, they were then denied legal recognition upon returning to Cambodia.

“They cannot prove their acquisition of citizenship, in part due to their forced relocation to Vietnam during the Pol Pot regime, after which they returned to Cambodia in the 1980s, without documentation,” she said via email yesterday.

The 1954 laws were repealed and replaced by stricter nationality laws in 1996, but Nguyen said this should not retroactively revoke citizenship.

“Upon their return to Cambodia, their homeland, they were considered by the government as ‘illegal immigrants’ and without a means to prove their previous civil status in Cambodia, they live in limbo,” she said.

Noun Chanthou, a 58-year-old ethnic Vietnamese resident of Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, is one of those in limbo. Chanthou, whose Vietnamse name is Dav Thhy Thoung, says she has no official documents from Cambodia or Vietnam, despite living in the Kingdom for more than 30 years.

“We cannot get a passport because we did not have documents . . . My other three children who were born here were just given migrant [documents] . . . I cannot go visit my daughter in Malaysia because I don’t have a passport,” she explained.

Regional analyst Carl Thayer said Vietnam was unlikely to take a strong stand against Cambodia, but will do what it can to preserve ethnic Vietnamese communities in the Kingdom.

“It is in Vietnamese interest to have a resident Vietnamese community in Cambodia,” he said, explaining that it “binds” the two nations and acts as a “conduit for bilateral relations”.

On Saturday, Billy Tai, an independent human rights and legal consultant, said the issue of “statelessness” for ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia is ongoing. He also said claims that ethnic Vietnamese are truly illegal immigrants is “eerily similar” to rhetoric used against the Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Tai added that Cambodia is not a signatory to the 1954 UN Convention on Statelessness, but said the convention has arguably acquired “customary international law status”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the

  • Two major S’ville events could jumpstart international tourism: insiders

    Preah Sihanouk province is set to host two major international tourism-related events in late 2021 and early 2022, which insiders expect to ignite new interest among new and repeat foreign holidaymakers into visiting the Kingdom and significantly raise tourist arrivals from near zero in the Covid era.