Police Detain, Deport Alleged Illegal VN Immigrants

Phnom Penh Police have arrested more than 40 alleged illegal Viet­namese immigrants, most of whom sold corn on the streets of the capital, police said Sunday.

Most of them were arrested Fri­day and have already been deported to Vietnam, said Hy Pru, deputy mu­ni­cipal police chief. But several Viet­­na­mese corn vendors, who speak Khmer but are suspected of being il­le­gal immigrants, are being held at dis­trict police stations while of­ficials in­vestigate them, he added.

The vendors were arrested either be­­cause they could not speak Khmer or were unable to produce do­c­uments proving they had the right to be in Cambodia, Hy Pru said. The arrests were made in Tuol Kok, Daun Penh, Chamkar Mon and Prampi Makara districts.

The boom in demand for Viet­na­mese corn in recent months has led to an influx of illegal immigrants ea­ger to take advantage of the new market, Huy Pru added. “The number of illegal Viet­na­mese selling corn has increased ab­normally.”

The arrests were part of an on­going Interior Ministry campaign to tack­le illegal immigration, Mu­nicipal Po­lice Chief Touch Naruth said. “The arrests were not dis­criminatory against Vietnamese corn sellers or the selling of Viet­na­mese corn,” he added.

Cambodian corn vendors interviewed Sunday near Independence Mo­n­ument said corn from Viet­nam has skyrocketed in popularity in re­cent months. “Customers prefer Vietnamese corn—it is bigger, more delicious and smells better” than corn grown in Cambodia, said vendor Chuon Chinet.

Customers will pay twice the usual price for the Vietnamese va­ri­ety, Cambodian vendors said.

“Also Vietnamese corn sellers are very competitive. They move around so they can sell more; Cam­bo­dians stay in one place,” said Prak Chantha, a vendor from Takeo pro­vince.

Kek Galabru, founder of local rights group Licadho, said that Cam­bo­dian authorities have the duty to re­patriate illegal immigrants.

“In general, in any country, [authorities] should fight against il­legal immigrants. They break the law,” she said.

Officials at the Vietnamese Em­bassy could not be reached for com­ment.

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