The Ministry of Interior held a meeting with all provincial governors on Monday to discuss registration of foreigners in Cambodia, officials said, sparking concerns that the government could be cracking down on illegal Vietnamese immigrants.
One Ministry of Interior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that the ministry and provincial governors met “to evaluate the process of immigration” in Cambodia, but declined to provide details.
The governor of Kandal province said Monday that the governors and ministry officials discussed implementing a strict immigration law and gathering foreign immigration statistics “so illegal foreign immigrants dare not sneak inside Cambodian soil.”
“Our authority needs to control [illegal immigrants] more strictly, especially in my province located near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border,” said Kandal Governor Tep Nannory after the meeting. “I hope we can implement the immigration law.”
This is the third time the provincial governors met with Ministry of Interior officials to discuss registering foreigners, said Kompong Chhnang provincial Governor Sou Phirin, who added that there was “no result” during Monday’s meeting.
“I hate illegal immigrants who are living on the floating houses on the Tonle Sap because they destroyed the environment, so we are working hard to solve this problem,” Sou Phirin said, referring to the ethnic Vietnamese who live on the river. “I need foreign immigrants to respect our immigration laws.”
Another Ministry of Interior official, who declined to be identified, said the government will try to register all foreigners in Cambodia, not just Vietnamese citizens. The official said the Ministry of Interior has already registered 60 percent of foreigners.
Vietnamese Embassy officials in Phnom Penh, however, expressed concern over the Ministry of Interior’s meeting.
“We will pay close attention to this matter or any human rights violations against Vietnamese citizens,” said Chu Dong Loc, the outgoing press secretary for the Vietnamese Embassy. “The embassy has a responsibility to protect the rights of Vietnamese in Cambodia.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior detained Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience) newspaper reporter Sok Sothea on Monday, said Dam Sith, editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Sok Sothea recently wrote an article about whether Vietnamese living in Cambodia would be granted citizenship if they have voter registration cards, Dam Sith said.
According to Dam Sith, Tuol Kok district police ordered Sok Sothea to the police station and then sent him to the Ministry of Interior, where was held for questioning since Monday morning.
“This is a real violation of a journalist’s rights,” Dam Sith said.
A Ministry of Interior official said Sok Sothea was not arrested and is only being held so he can answer questions about documents authorities found at his house.
The official, who would not comment on the documents, said Sok Sothea would be released Monday night or today.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)