VN Khmers Face Problems, Spokesman Says

Ethnic Khmers born in southern Vietnam continue to face un­necessary red tape from Cam­bodian officials in obtaining and updating family books, passports and identification cards, according to Son Set, president of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Hu­man Rights Association.

“They are discriminated against by local authorities,” he said at a meeting last week.

Even though Khmer Krom were not born in Cambodia, many have parents who were born here, Son Set said. They should be given the same treatment received by Khmers born in other foreign countries, who easily obtain Cam­bodian citizenship, he said.

Authorities often ask Khmer Krom for bribes to update or issue official documents. Some Khmer Krom feel they must lie or forge documents to show they were born in Cambodia.

Chau Vanly, an adviser to co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng, said the government does not prohibit Khmer Krom from obtaining Cambodian citizenship. The government considers Khmer Krom to be Cambodian, as stated in the Constitution and in the 1997 nationality law, he said.

Sar Kheng and co-Minister of Interior You Hockry ordered authorities in January 2001 to stop the practice of taking money from people making their family books.

Family books are used to keep track of statistics like the date of birth, date of marriage, number of children and date of death. Chan­ges to the family book must be authorized by commune or district officials. Families with a book can then get ID cards identifying them as Cambodian citizens.

One Interior Ministry official, who asked not to be named, said local authorities must be careful when issuing the books, since many Cambodian names are similar to Vietnamese names, and ma­ny Vietnamese people live in Cam­bodia and speak fluent Khmer.

“The Vietnamese people in Kampuchea Krom want these documents to live in Cambodia legally,” he said.


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