A group of 27 Khmer Krom people recently deported from Thailand and Vietnam say their applications for national identification cards have been refused. But officials say the ID cards cannot be issued without a permanent address and insist a lack of identification should have no bearing on their livelihoods in Cambodia.
“When they come to Cambodia, they will be automatically citizens, they will be treated the same,” police Lieutenant-General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said yesterday.
“How can we provide an ID card when they can’t give an address? This is part of the ID card,” he said. “They can get a job…. They can do the same as any Cambodian without the card,” he added.
Members of the group who are currently living in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district and human rights organizations have said finding a job without the ID card can be challenging.
Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for rights group Licadho, which has financially supported the group and is paying rent on their Stung Meanchey home, said yesterday: “It is not hard to [obtain ID cards] if the government wants to give it.”
Thach Soong, representative of the 27-person group, said yesterday that Meanchey district police officials came to their temporary residence on Friday to tell them that he could not process their card applications without a permanent address. Others said this condition was unfair.
“The government announced that Khmer Kampuchea Krom are Cambodian citizens when they come to Cambodia from Vietnam. Now they rejected giving us an ID,” said Ly Samnang, 29, who was deported from Vietnam in January. In a statement released yesterday by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, executive director Thach Setha called for the government to stop placing unnecessary obstacles on the group obtaining identification.
(Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Abby Seiff)