Prime Minister Hun Sen has refused to establish a new Ministry of Immigration as requested by Funcinpec and National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, government officials said on Sunday.
The Ministry of Interior—which currently controls immigration issues—undertook a study to examine the utility of creating a separate ministry to deal with immigration issues, and after the results were known, Hun Sen found the idea unnecessary, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said on Sunday.
“Through the study, [the Interior Ministry found that] we should keep the same situation,” he said.
The proposed creation of an immigration ministry was part of the CPP-Funcinpec agreement that ended a yearlong deadlock following the 2003 elections, Khieu Kanharith said. But at that time, the CPP had agreed to implement the plan only if Funcinpec agreed to relinquish its “co-minister” post at the Interior, leaving the ministry under a sole minister, he said.
“We have representatives from the parties, the co-ministers [of Interior]. We will keep the same infrastructure by improving its efficiency,” Khieu Kanharith said, suggesting that the issue had been put to rest in 2003.
But Prince Ranariddh had indicated last week that the creation of the ministry was still in the works. On Dec 13, he told reporters that he had formed a task force of senior Funcinpec party members to discuss plans for it. Senior Funcinpec official, and former co-minister of interior, You Hockry said Prince Ranariddh had written to Hun Sen about the issue.
You Hockry said that an immigration ministry was badly needed, noting that the scope of Cambodia’s illegal immigration problem is beyond the Ministry of Interior’s capacity to address.
“Ministry of Interior has done its best but [the ministry] hasn’t solved the issue very well,” he said. “We need a separate ministry that has more efficiency.”
The Sam Rainsy Party’s acting president, Kong Korm, said the CPP’s refusal of the Funcinpec request was demonstrative of the party’s lack of political power.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh should not think that the CPP will do something according to his wishes,” Kong Korm said.“This clearly shows that Funcinpec does [the will of] the CPP, but the CPP never follows Funcinpec.”
Kong Korm also said that the new ministry would only have added to Cambodia’s already bloated bureaucracy.
Opposition party member Eng Chhay Eang claimed that the CPP was also ensuring that there would be no crackdown on Vietnamese immigrants in the country. Prince Ranariddh had also implied that the formation of the new ministry would not affect Vietnamese immigrants.
When he announced plans for the ministry on Dec 13, he told reporters that it would “control immigration not between Cambodia and Vietnam, but with Laos and Thailand.”