Vietnamese Villagers Now Near Border

About 160 floating homes belonging to Vietnamese villagers kicked out from the Monivong Bridge area in Phnom Penh last week are now in Kandal province near the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, officials said.

Immigration officials said the villagers are now staying on the Bassac River in Koh Thom district in Chrei Thom commune.

More than 350 floating homes and sampans were kicked out of the capital’s Meanchey district last week. Officials say the remaining 700 Vietnamese living in land shacks will be kicked out throughout this month and next.

Chea Sophara, governor of Phnom Penh, said the Viet­namese had to leave because they are illegal immigrants and were polluting the Tonle Bassac. The Vietnamese Embassy has asked for a meeting with Chea Sophara to discuss the villagers case, he said Thursday.

Embassy officials could not be reached for comment Thursday. Chea Sophara said he will likely meet with embassy officials and with the local human rights group Licadho next week.

Human rights groups have questioned whether the Viet­namese villagers living in Mean­chey district are indeed illegal immigrants as authorities claim. The groups said the government needs to have a process to find out whether the villagers are here illegally.

Adhoc, Licadho and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said even if the villagers are illegal immigrants, their basic human rights still have to be protected.

Chea Sophara has acknowledged that authorities did not ask the villagers for identification documents before they were kicked out.

Koh Thom district police in Kandal are now controlling the Vietnamese villagers, not allowing them to leave.

Kandal Second Governor Rom Tek Khak Mony said local auth­orities did allow villagers to go back to Vietnam, but they weren’t admitted.

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