Interior Ministry officials handed out immigration certificates to Vietnamese nationals living in Cambodia in a ceremony on Wednesday and Thursday continued their census of foreign nationals living in the country, according to police.
The census began on Sunday with Sok Phal, the director of the new general department of immigration at the Interior Ministry, briefly touring Vietnamese communities living on the waters of the Tonle Sap in Pursat province.
Pursat deputy provincial police chief Ban Heng said that the police and officials from the general department had widened their travels on Thursday to two new districts.
“Our work group went down to do the census on immigrant foreigners in Kandieng and Bakan districts first, and then we will go to other districts in the province,” Mr. Heng said. He also appealed to Vietnamese living in Cambodia without official documentation to reach out to police.
“One person is required to pay 250,000 riel [about $60] to receive immigration certificates for two years and when they use it for those two years, they must renew it.”
In Kandal province, provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun said that some ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia without documents had in fact come forward to police and were granted the suitable documents already.
“On Wednesday, our officials gave immigration certificates to more than 100 Vietnamese people who live in Kien Svay and Lvea Em districts,” Mr. Chamroeun said.
Lvea Em district police chief Chea Thol, who attended the ceremony, said that he believed that the program of formalizing the status of undocumented Vietnamese immigrants living in Cambodia was a positive step for authorities.
“I think that the government giving immigration certificates to the Vietnamese immigrants is good. It can make it easy for us to manage them,” Mr. Thol said.
“We have to be strict on immigrants because we don’t want the immigrants to come in and out [of Cambodia] as they please,” he said.
General Phal of the general department of immigration could not be reached for comment on the census.
Khmer-Vietnamese Federation director Sim Chy said even his organization was unaware of the number of Vietnamese people living in Cambodia legally or illegally.
“It is not our role to take the figures of Vietnamese people who live in Cambodia, it is only the Cambodian authorities who can do this,” Mr. Chy said. “I also await the figures from the census from the authorities.”
“Most of these Vietnamese people were born in Cambodia and their families have been here for many generations,” he added.
Speaking to police and officials at a seminar on identification cards in Phnom Penh in the morning, Interior Minister Sar Kheng also acknowledged that in the past Cambodian identification cards had been granted to non-nationals.
“Previously the controls on the issuing of identification of the people has faced some weak points,” Mr. Kheng said. “What I have learned is that our local authorities have made mistakes.
“When they get one or two packets of cigarettes, they issued the identity card documents to them, and did not know who they are and they did not have the documents.”
During the speech, Mr. Kheng also said authorities would soon start a campaign to have all Cambodian nationals registered and issued national identification cards.
“We have a draft law about identification cards that says that people have the obligation to get identification cards,” he said, noting that gentle prodding has not worked.
“We’ve invited them to do it, but they do not come.”