The Vietnamese Association in Cambodia has been officially recognized by the government and has permission to open branches in 19 municipalities and provinces, according to an Interior Ministry letter.
A recently released letter, signed by the co-ministers of Interior on April 24, officially recognizes the association. Sim Gy, president of the association, said Vietnamese living in Cambodia will be encouraged to respect Khmer tradition. “These associations are not involved in politics,” Sim Gy said Thursday.
But Khmer Front Party Deputy President Sun Sokunmealea last week appealed to the Interior Ministry to revoke the permit, saying the association’s expansion would saturate the government with Vietnamese political ideology.
She argued that many Vietnamese living in Cambodia are illegal immigrants and should not benefit from an organization that could invite further unlawful migration. “The government is offering power to the Vietnamese people. Cambodia is going to become the same as Kampuchea Krom,” she said, referring to the ethnic Khmer community living in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam.
Sak Setha, director of the Interior Ministry’s General Department, said the government authorized new branches of the association to provide social services to Vietnamese who the government is unable to reach.
“We allow all NGOs and associations to form, because they will benefit the government,” Sak Setha said Thursday. “If we don’t allow the Vietnamese Association to increase its office, then they will accuse us of discrimination.”
Funcinpec parliamentarian Princess Norodom Vacheara said Thursday that the government’s endorsement of the association could flood Phnom Penh with Vietnamese and sway future votes in favor of the ruling CPP.
Rong Chhun, Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association president, echoed Princess Vacheara’s concerns. He said that, by contrast, his association’s bids for expansion are always denied.
Sak Setha replied that the government would approve more CITA branches, if Rong Chhun requested permission before opening them.