The Cambodian Red Cross will investigate whether 47 ethnic Khmers, who fled Vietnam and are now camped in a field in Takeo province, require humanitarian assistance, officials said Monday.
Groups of Khmer Krom have been arriving from Vietnam over the last two weeks, saying they are fleeing economic hardship and mounting tension after alleged anti-Hanoi demonstrations in southern Vietnam.
CPP lawmaker Treung Thavy said she asked last week for Takeo’s provincial Red Cross office to assess their needs.
“I have heard they are facing difficulties,” Treung Thavy said, “so I want the Red Cross to check whether it is true or not. The Red Cross can provide humanitarian aid.”
Takeo provincial Red Cross deputy director Ith Sarun said he would visit the group and that if they are facing hardship or food shortage, the Red Cross would help regardless of the group’s ethnic background.
Cambodian Red Cross Deputy Director Ouk Damry said that if other aid organizations were providing support to the group, the Red Cross, whose president is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany, would not.
San Savang, director of Friends of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, who is supporting the group, said he would go Thursday to Phnom Penh to present their case to the UN High Comissioner for Refugees.
“UNHCR can help the Montagnards. They must also help Khmer Kampuchea Krom,” San Savang said, referring to the thousands of members of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities who have fled as refugees to Cambodia since 2001.
Inge Sturkenboom, spokeswoman for the UNHCR, said that were San Savang to present the case of the 47 Khmer Krom, UNHCR would refer them to the Red Cross and the Cambodian government.
“We are mandated to deal with refugees and have been told specifically by the Cambodia government that Khmer Krom are not refugees but Khmer citizens,” she said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that if the 47 Khmer Krom are living peacefully in Cambodia they will be allowed to remain. If, however, “they are using Cambodian territory to oppose a sovereign country, they will face Cambodia law,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish.)