Fri, 18 April 2014
The Phnom Penh Post
Many ethnic Vietnamese live in floating villages such as this one in Kandeang district, Pursat province.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy yesterday said that up to a quarter of a million ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia could be granted full citizenship rights via the Nationality Law if his Cambodia National Rescue Party were to come to power.
The CNRP president has sought in recent months, through a flurry of letters to newspapers and online postings, to cast off what he calls a groundless “foreign-entertained allegation” of anti-Vietnamese sentiment levelled at him and his party.
His most recent comments regarding the citizenship rights of some ethnic Vietnamese come after the Cambodian People’s Party-led government announced the creation of two new departments in the Ministry of Interior to control immigration and the issuance of identity documents.
The CPP’s platform for next month’s councillor elections also promises to address problems related to immigration and make it easier for identity documents to be obtained by those who require them.
The moves have led analysts to conclude that the ruling party is trying to catch up with public opinion regarding long-term unchecked illegal immigration from Vietnam, a hot-button issue for many who voted for the CNRP – which has talked about the issue extensively, despite it not appearing on the party’s policy platform – at last July’s disputed national election.
Speaking with the Post yesterday on the phone from Europe, where he is due to attend a political party conference in the Netherlands next week, Rainsy said he believed there were around 500,000 people “of Vietnamese descent” living in Cambodia, half of whom were eligible for Cambodian citizenship via birth.
“According to me I think that up to half of these 500,000 people of Vietnamese descent fulfil the legal requirement to be considered as Cambodian citizens. So the CNRP, we must treat those who meet the requirement to be Cambodian citizens, as Cambodian citizens,” he said.