The Interior Ministry’s general department of immigration began its “census” of ethnic Vietnamese people living in Cambodia on Sunday, with Sok Phal, the department chief, touring Pursat province villages along the Tonle Sap lake.
Pursat provincial police chief Sarun Chanthy said that General Phal and a group of officials from the immigration department had gone to inspect the living situation of the Vietnamese communities living on the lake.
“He just went in the morning to see the situation of the Vietnamese nationals who have been living on the Tonle Sap,” said Mr. Chanthy, adding that Gen. Phal had mainly toured Krakor district’s Kompong Luong commune.
Mr. Chanthy explained that the census is being carried out by Gen. Phal together with provincial police across the country. “We’re doing it for the whole country, it is not only being done in Pursat province,” he said.
“We’re just going to update our census, to see whether they live legally or illegally,” Mr. Chanthy said.
Krakor district governor Tim Sarin said that previous censuses had revealed that ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia have a similar quality of life to that of Khmers.
“Most of them like to live on the water and they work in different business sectors such as fishing, small-scale selling and other jobs,” Mr. Sarin said.
Gen. Phal said that he could not give details about his trip to Kompong Luong but appeared to deny that he had gone there to look at ethnic Vietnamese people.
“I didn’t look at them but they looked back at me. Please ask the Pursat provincial police,” Gen. Phal said. He declined to comment further.
After a request from the CNRP, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said in an interview on July 30 that the Interior Ministry would review immigration laws and provide estimates of the number of Vietnamese people living in Cambodia.
CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha had the day before said that the opposition party would seek to determine the number of foreigners living in Cambodia legally or illegally once it entered the National Assembly.
This is not the first time that such a survey of foreigners has been carried out. One in 2012 revealed that about 1,000 Vietnamese nationals were living along the lake in Kompong Luong, said Mr. Chanthy of Pursat.
However, Chhuor Chandoeun, governor of the adjacent Kompong Chhnang province, which also has a large number of ethnic Vietnamese living on the Tonle Sap, said he understood this census would be bigger than normal.
Gen. Phal has taken a hands-on approach since being named the director of the general department of immigration, which was created in January, Mr. Chandoeun said.
“After the Interior Ministry created the general department of immigration, I heard that the Interior Ministry had plans to update the census on foreigners including Vietnamese people,” he said.
“We always update this census each month. I think this is not a new plan, but I think this census will be more detailed than before,” Mr. Chandoeun added.