Residents Praise Roundup of Illegal Vietnamese

A convoy of police vehicles snaked through Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak II commune on Thursday afternoon, stopping at three different locations to arrest a total of 12 Vietnamese nationals living illegally in the country, as part of an ongoing nationwide census of foreigners.

The two-hour operation was led by Uk Heisela, chief of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, and included raids on a garage and a private home on Street 132, and a cafe on Street 598. 

Two Vietnamese women are escorted into a police van in Phnom Penh on Thursday after they were deemed to be living in the country illegally. (Sek Odom/The Cambodia Daily)
Two Vietnamese women are escorted into a police van in Phnom Penh on Thursday after they were deemed to be living in the country illegally. (Sek Odom/The Cambodia Daily)

At each of the locations, a contingent of 20 immigration and commune police officers rounded up Vietnamese men and women who failed to produce required residency documents and loaded them into a van to be taken back to the immigration department headquarters.

At the residence on Street 132, where six people were arrested, Mr. Heisela said that that his officers had been monitoring the occupants for some time.

“They have been here since September and were attempting to open a cafe,” he said. “We cannot do the whole census; local commune officials must keep an eye on newcomers, and we will go and check out anybody who is suspected of being here illegally.”

At the cafe on Street 598, police went inside and about a minute later came out with three Vietnamese women. A crowd of curious neighbors quickly formed and began snapping away at the visibly distressed women with their smartphones.

Witnesses to the operation said they welcomed the arrests, and the census as a whole.

“I saw it all, and I’m happy they are carrying out raids on these Vietnamese,” former soldier Ngat Sam Oun said after he witnessed the raid on the house.

“What are they doing? Are they doing bad things or good? I don’t know, but there used to be no human trafficking in Cambodia, then you had places like Svay Pak appearing,” Mr. Sam Oun said, referring to the commune once notorious for its many underage Vietnamese prostitutes.

“The Vietnamese are bad because they are involved in human trafficking,” agreed a 65-year-old vendor who gave her name only as Sothea.

The census, she said, “is a good thing, if [the Vietnamese] are here illegally.”

“This gives us confidence in the authorities.”

Commune police chief Khann Khun Tith, who was also present during Thursday’s raids, said his officers have been keeping an eye on suspected illegal immigrants for the past month.

“We watched them until we were sure they were illegal immigrants,” said Mr. Khun Tith. “This is difficult because sometimes they are tipped off and flee,” he said. “When this happens, [we] continue looking for illegal foreigners, especially Vietnamese.”

According to Mr. Heisela, a total of 552 foreigners have been arrested since the census began in late July, 399 of whom were Vietnamese.

odom@cambodiadaily.com, wright@cambodiadaily.com

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