More Vietnamese Arrested as Foreigner Census Continues

Police in Ratanakkiri province said they arrested at least three Vietnamese nationals Tuesday morning illegally living in Cambodia, days after six others were deported as a result of the Interior Ministry’s ongoing census of foreigners.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the census, which officials have said will be more extensive and wider-reaching than those done before, will soon turn its focus to non-Vietnamese foreigners.

The ministry created a general department of immigration in January and placed then-National Police Deputy Commissioner Sok Phal at the helm. It has since promised to better implement existing immigration laws.

In Ratanakkiri, the province’s deputy police chief, Chea Bunthoeun, said authorities had found only 190 ethnic Vietnamese families living in the province over the past two weeks, compared to about 300 during the last census in 2012.

Six illegal immigrants were sent home on August 29, he said, and a few more were detained Tuesday.

“We found three to four more Vietnamese, who only came to live here illegally about half a month to a month ago, after we deported the six Vietnamese people back to Vietnam,” said Mr. Bunthoeun. “Now our police experts are questioning them.”

Mr. Bunthoeun said the census had found that most foreigners in the province are ethnic Vietnamese but also that Indians and Americans make up a large portion of the foreign population.

“About 70 to 80 percent are Vietnamese people; there are about 600 Vietnamese living in Ratanakkiri province,” he said.

General Sopheak of the Interior Ministry said the census, which last week also saw official immigration certificates handed out to more than 100 undocumented Vietnamese residents in Kandal province, would soon expand to other, non-Vietnamese foreigners.

“You will be later in Phnom Penh,” Gen. Sopheak told a foreign reporter by telephone. “Only the Vietnamese now, but then [other] foreigners. There is lots of land in the country to cover…. It will be your time, don’t worry.”

The spokesman said the census collectors were tasked with collecting a wide array of information about foreigners.

“All of the data related to people: their names, date of birth, place of birth, parents’ names, their CVs, where did they come from, by which means—all the information,” he said.

Phnom Penh immigration police chief Mom Sitha said that authorities were preparing to carry out the census in the city and could begin collecting data as early as next week.

The census has also gotten underway in Pursat province, where a large portion of Cambodia’s ethnic Vietnamese population lives in villages on the Tonle Sap lake.

Provincial deputy police chief Ban Heng said the census had so far not expanded beyond Pursat City and the districts of Bakan and Kandieng along the lake.

“I cannot tell you the results of the census yet because we have not totaled them,” he said. “There have been no problems with doing the census, it is all going [normally].”

Kompong Chhnang provincial police chief Prak Vuthy declined to say whether the census had begun in his province, which also has a large number of ethnic Vietnamese living along the Tonle Sap.

Kandal provincial deputy police chief Top Sovann said the census had not yet begun in his jurisdiction, though 100 residency certificates were handed out last week.

Mr. Sovann said those papers, valid for two years, were given to ethnic Vietnamese identified during the 2012 census.

General Phal, the director-general of the immigration department, said he was out of the country but would provide more details about how the census was being conducted after he returned later this week.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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