The anticipated issuance of new identification cards to Cambodian citizens has angered many area Vietnamese, who are demanding the government give them family books allowing them to live legally in the country.
Many Vietnamese say their long-term residency in Cambodia should justify citizenship.
“I need [the card]. I want to live in Cambodia as it is easy to earn money and there is no more war,” said Ye Tong, a Vietnamese citizen who moved to Cambodia in 1982.
Family books, which are used to identify Cambodian nationals, are necessary to obtain the new Cambodian citizen cards. The government, through the Interior Ministry, only plans to issue cards to Cambodians who can prove their nationality with a family book, according to officials.
The cards will replace identification issued by the State of Cambodia since 1979 that government authorities say are no longer valid. Vietnamese living in Phnom Penh and several provinces have already approached local authorities with family books and identification issued by the State of Cambodia.
“Most foreigners, particularly the Vietnamese and Chinese, bought identification cards of the State of Cambodia as they use this territory as their refuge,” said one municipal official who asked not to be named.
According to Col Liv Mauv, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s department of police administration, efforts have been made to explain to non-Cambodians that the State of Cambodia-issued identification is no longer acceptable. The old cards only identify the holder by name, not nationality, Liv Mauv said.
The Interior Ministry has issued about 20,000 cards so far to government workers, police officials and parliamentarians, police administration director Ouk Kimlek said. Cards will be issued to the remaining eligible Cambodians once money is received from the Ministry of Finance, he said. About 1 million cards are expected to be issued to Cambodians above the age of 18, he said.
The new card, which will be required for land purchases and passport applications, is being launched in an attempt to standardize identification of Cambodian citizens.
But there is some concern by human rights groups that the cards may be used to discriminate against non-Cambodians, many of whom are legal residents. Both human rights workers and government officials say they hope the new cards will be used to control illegal immigration and keep better track of criminals.