C AMBODIA and Vietnam may be closer - a little, at least - to resolving their
differences over Vietnamese in Cambodia following inter-ministerial
A delegation of 11 Vietnamese met with their counterparts
from the Cambodian ministries of the interior, foreign affairs, social action
and culture for four days of talks in Phnom Penh late last month.
Sarun, Deputy Director of the Cambodian Interior Ministry's Immigration
Department, said three main points had been agreed upon.
They were that
security would be ensured as much as possible for Vietnamese immigrants in
Cambodia; that national and international laws would be respected in their
regard; and that they would not be forced into detention or refugee camps in
On the issue of several thousand Vietnamese boatpeople stranded
on Cambodia's southern border at Chrey Thom, Cambodian officials had pledged
they would soon examine their cases individually.
Some 2800 Vietnamese
are living in a makeshift floating refugee village on the Basaac River at Chrey
Thom, just inside the Vietnamese border.
Human rights groups say most of
them had lived in Cambodia for years, and fled to the border during Khmer Rouge
attacks on Vietnamese around the time of the 1993 elections. The government,
concerned at increasing Vietnamese immigration, will not let them return to
Sarun - in the first such government acknowledgment - said it
appeared that 70 per cent of the boatpeople might be able to come back to
The government would investigate each situation on a case by
case basis, checking to see whether they had documents or witnesses to prove
they had lived in Cambodia for years.
One of the Vietnamese delegation,
however, complained to the Post that it was unfair for the people to be asked
for documents. "You understand that there has been many years of war [in
Cambodia] - no-one will have their documents."
While some progress was
made in the discussions, there was little more agreement. Sarun said the
Vietnamese delegation had asked for a pledge that large numbers of Vietnamese
not be forcibly sent back to Vietnam - as feared under Cambodia's immigration
The Cambodian government responded by saying that it had the right
to make decisions on the basis of Cambodian law, without the interference of