Vietnamese people living in Banteay Meanchey province found with irregular identification papers will have to forfeit their documents and reapply for legal status, a provincial immigration chief said yesterday.
Or Lun, chief of the provincial police’s immigration department, said officers would seize any government documents that were issued in an irregular manner to foreigners in the province, in particular to Vietnamese nationals seeking Cambodian citizenship.
“We will confiscate the documents that those Vietnamese have used to show they are Cambodians and they will be ordered to apply again for nationality according to the law,” he said.
“They will also have to complete a Khmer language interview.”
According to Mr Lun, the existing irregular documents include family books, identification cards, birth certificates and residence records.
“We have already found some Vietnamese with irregular papers and we are awaiting permission from the ministry to implement the order,” he said.
So far, 198 Vietnamese have been found in possession of 78 family books, 49 birth certificates, four marriage certificates, 28 ID cards and two passports that were improperly issued, Mr Lun told local media this week.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said earlier this month that 70,000 foreign nationals in Cambodia were holding irregular immigration documents, threatening legal action against officials who wrongly issued papers.
Mr Kheng made the comments while presiding over a meeting at the ministry in which he announced plans to revoke the irregular documents.
“We cannot be patient because this is a national problem that must be solved,” said Mr Kheng.
Days later, the Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Ministry called on Cambodia to protect their nationals and allow them to access legitimate papers.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network of Social Accountability, said illegal immigrants had been a long-running issue in the country.
“It is high time the authorities enforced the law on immigration,” he said.
“It should not just be enforced in Banteay Meanchey province, but also Kampot or Preah Sihanouk province where I witness a lot of them fishing in the sea, and it should also be enforced throughout the country,” he said.
Mr Chey attributed the problem of illegal immigration to local authorities receiving bribes in exchange for the issuance of administrative papers.