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Khmer Krom Refused ID Cards

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Khmer Krom citizens are hoping the Interior Ministry provides them with ID cards eventually. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Two ethnic minority rights groups have filed a letter to the Interior Ministry urging it to push commune and provincial officials to create identification cards for Khmer Krom citizens, many of whom have been denied the service.
 
The Indigenous Rights Protection Organization and the Association of Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development filed the letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday.
 
The letter states Khmer Krom citizens are denied the cards, barring them from legal, civic and travel services, by local authorities even when they simply need to renew their old ones, noting that their orders seem to be coming from higher authorities.
 
“According to our survey, some local authorities, especially provincial and in Siem Reap, suggested they have the order from officials higher up,” the letter stated.
 
The letter gave the example of 15 Khmer Krom residents in Kampong Chhnang province’s Khsam commune, who applied to have their ID cards renewed, but have so far been ignored by local authorities.
 
“Please Samdech Kraleahaom [referring to Mr. Kheng], review and issue instructions or orders to local authorities across the country to make the identification cards for them,” the letter said.
 
Son Chhumsothun, land and human rights investigator and director of the Association of Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development, said there are more than one million Khmer Krom residents now living in Cambodia and facing a string of legal problems because authorities refuse to issue the vital cards to them.
 
“When they have no identity card, it is difficult for them to find work and when they want to go overseas they cannot ask for a passport,” he said.
 
“Authorities discriminate against them because they are Khmer Krom. We urge them not to discriminate against them because they are already discriminated and had a very difficult time before they came to live in Cambodia.”
 
However Men Sopet, the deputy chief of Phnom Penh police who is also in charge of providing ID cards, denied the letter’s accusations, saying authorities do not discriminate.
 
He said police commission officials must receive the appropriate documentation to prove the applicants are Khmer Krom, before they issue them ID cards.
 
“When we send their documents to the commissioner, the commission examines whether they are Kampuchea Krom or not,” he said.
 
While culturally similar to Khmers, the group faces discrimination both in Cambodia and Vietnam after the 1949 decision by then-French President Vincent Auriol to give control of the 21 formerly-Cambodian provinces that make up Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam.
 
Last month a cabinet secretary for Prime Minister Hun Sen refused to accept a petition from a Khmer Krom activist group, claiming it wasn’t his job.

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