Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said Cambodians should not be concerned over an influx of Chinese nationals in Preah Sihanouk province, where a rising investment has led to foreign population growth and a spike in crime.
Speaking to supporters in Switzerland, Mr Hun Sen said the increase in Chinese nationals is a result of economic development and Chinese investment.
“Some people are concerned about an increase of Chinese nationals in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said. “Please be aware that there are a lot of construction [projects] there. We [Cambodia] cannot supply them with enough skilled workers. What can we do?”
“We must allow them to bring their skilled workers to build bridges and other projects,” Mr Hun Sen added. “This is a technical help we need.”
Safety concerns for the province have recently prompted authorities to create specialised groups aimed at curbing crimes being committed by foreigners in Sihanoukville.
In August, the National Police formed an eleven-member working group, drawn from senior officials from various departments to evaluate the security situation in the province.
It reported that an increase in Chinese investments led to Chinese setting up criminal networks.
Last month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered the creation of a taskforce to provide additional support for provincial authorities to crack down on crimes.
Mr Kheng noted that crimes plaguing Preah Sihanouk include murder, drug trafficking, gambling, extortion and kidnapping.
Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak yesterday said the taskforce has not given details of its month-long mission, noting that the situation has been quiet.
“Since the creation of the taskforce, I have not seen any full report of how the situation is,” Gen Sopheak said. “I’ve only received a notification that said the situation is under control.”
Mr Hun Sen noted that the government allows Chinese skilled labourers to work in Cambodia for a limited period of time, noting that they return home once their jobs are complete.
“China has never brought their soldiers to violate Cambodia, but other countries did,” he said. “So the pressing matter for the country right now is human resources and we need to address this.”
An estimated 1.5 million Chinese tourists have visited Cambodia this year, up from 1.2 million last year.
Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator with rights group Adhoc, said officials have moved fast to suppress illegal activities, but noted tougher action is still needed to restore order in the province.
“I agree that the government has been working to reduce crime, but problems created by Chinese nationals still exist,” Ms Sotheary said. “I think a tough and strong commitment from the authorities is vital.”
Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Yun Min yesterday said crime in the province is under control.
“The situation is quite clam recently,” Mr Min said. “It was not as bad as people said. I think the problem was exaggerated, making it sound like all Chinese people are bad.”