More Than 200 Deported as Census Continues

The Ministry of Interior has deported more than 200 foreign nationals over the past two months as part of its ongoing nationwide census, according to Sok Phal, director of the ministry’s immigration department.

“We have taken action against immigrants who do not have documents over the past two months and sent back 200, including white, black, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese people,” General Phal said at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Monday.

“We are taking action in three areas,” Gen. Phal continued. “First, we are controlling the immigrants who have expired documentation …. Second, we are surveying people who are in Cambodia who have documents, and third, we are taking action against the ones who do not have documents and sending them back [to their home country].”

The Interior Ministry’s census was launched last month, at the same time the government announced efforts to ramp up enforcement of existing laws that require foreigners employed in the country to hold work permits.

Uch Sothearath, deputy police chief in Phnom Penh in charge of immigration, said the census is currently underway in the capital, but that he could not estimate when it might be completed.

Pal Sauth, deputy police chief in Kompong Chhnang province, which is home to a large number of ethnic Vietnamese living on the Tonle Sap lake, said the census had just begun in the province.

“We cooperated with the general immigration department to begin the census today,” he said. “We went down to Boribor district first.”

Police in Banteay Meanchey and Kompong Thom provinces said Monday that they have completed the census there and are compiling data to send to the immigration department in Phnom Penh.

Since it began campaigning for the 2013 national election, the opposition CNRP has made immigration reform a top policy priority, calling for a survey of foreign nationals in Cambodia and stronger enforcement of immigration laws.

In July, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told Voice of Democracy that the government would work with the CNRP to review immigration laws and provide estimates for the number of foreigners in the country.

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