In a sweeping raid, dozens of Phnom Penh police officers arrested 224 Chinese nationals who were found without legal travel documents in Tuol Kok district Thursday, police said.
“We [Phnom Penh police] are ordered to crack down on illegal immigration,” said Bith Kim Hong, a senior police commander. “We found that these mainland Chinese are bearing no passport or any travel documents.”
The Chinese were taken from Tuol Kok to the head quarters of the immigration police department near Pochentong Airport where they are being detained.
Three officials from the Chinese Embassy accompanied the illegal immigrants to the immigration police head quarters. The officials asked that the immigrants be treated in humanely.
The residence in which the illegal immigrants were housed was also raided last month after police were tipped off by neighbors that it was harboring illegal immigrants. Although at that time it turned out the house was empty, police had been keeping their eyes on it, Bit Kim Hong said.
The landlord was not present at the time of the raid, he added. “For the time being, police cannot conclude whether the landlord leases the house to someone else or if the landlord conspires to import these people,” he said. “We need a further investigation to find out.”
Kann Choeun, the Municipal Court prosecutor, said that the property owner is a high-ranking retired military officer.
Accusations have been made by police and neighbors that the house regularly accommodates illegal Chinese immigrants and that a high ranking police or government official is involved.
Seven Chinese immigrants were arrested in Kompong Cham province Aug 13 after entering illegally from Vietnam. The immigrants were released three days later after allegedly bribing the provincial court.
“I think this release is abusing the law,” said a provincial court clerk who refused to give his name. “We cannot let them free just with a fine and no punishment.” (Additional reporting by Phann Ana and Daniel Rudder)