Official Vows to Deport Illegal Lake Dwellers

Ethnic Vietnamese living in floating villages on the Tonle Sap Lake in Kompong Chhnang pro­vince face deportation soon if they don’t have legal documents, Deputy Governor Ky Sara said Thursday.

A census of Vietnamese on the river started one month ago. So far 2,000 people have been counted, officials said. The count is nearly finished, said Touch Naruth, Kom­pong Chhnang provincial police chief.

“I hope that after the census, I will deport Vietnamese citizens to their hometowns,” Ky Sara said. “We will implement [the deportation] according to the immigration law. The immigrant who doesn’t have identity will be sent back to Vietnam after the census.”

Vietnamese who do have the proper documents will be forced to move to land, Ky Sara said.

This practice has been in effect for the last two or three years, but it hasn’t succeeded because the Vietnamese find it hard to adapt to the land environment, he said.

The land is also very expensive, Touch Naruth said. Chhan Hoeun, Chhnok Tru commune chief, said recently that he wants to move his floating commune to land in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty which the lake dwellers face.

“It is very difficult to find land for [the Vietnamese people]. I don’t want them to pollute the en­vi­ronment,” he said.

Peou Bun Than, deputy director of the Kompong Chhnang Environment Department, claimed that when the river dwellers are removed, the pollution and disease will decrease.

If the government removes them from the river, typhoid and diarrhea among the people will also be reduced, he said.


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