Authorities near the Vietnamese border in Kandal province’s Koh Thom district say they will investigate 34 national identification cards seized from local police because they bear names that “do not sound Cambodian.”
District police confiscated the cards from the police chiefs of Sampov Poun, Purban and Prek Chrey communes, as well as from two villagers, on August 29, suspecting they were made for non-citizens, district police chief Chhoeun Bunchhorn said.
“Our provincial police chief will create a commission to investigate the issue. If the findings show that they are really Cambodians, I will deliver the identity cards to them. But if not, they will be confiscated,” Mr. Bunchhorn said.
He said district police had come across the cards after going to investigate an unrelated complaint from a woman who said she had applied long ago for a card, but had never received it.
Ouk Sroun, chief of Sampov Poun commune, said the cards were seized because they bore names that appeared to be Vietnamese, and because police were surprised to see so many unclaimed cards at the stations.
“They suspect that the card holders are not Cambodian because their names do not sound Cambodian, and so the working group will come to check the relevant documents, like the residency book and the family book,” Mr. Sroun said.
Som Menghor, chief of Purban commune, noted it was entirely possible for an ethnically Vietnamese person to have the right to a Cambodian national ID card, with so many cross-border marriages.
“The identity cards are made based on the person’s birth certificate, and this is the work of the police, and I don’t want to say anything about that. But it’s also related to the commune office, because we do the birth certificates,” Mr. Menghor said.
“For example, if a man marries a Vietnamese woman, then a birth certificate will be issued for her, and that’s our responsibility, but the identity cards are still managed by the police,” he explained.
Cambodian citizenship for ethnic Vietnamese people has long been a fraught issue. Though many Vietnamese families have roots in the country that go back generations, many do not have citizenship or formal residency papers and struggle to access basic state services.
The opposition has long claimed that the government has allowed Vietnamese people to cross the border and settle in the country as they please, with local officials either issuing them fake documents or turning a blind eye to their presence.
Supporters of the CNRP have most recently accused the ruling CPP of helping Vietnamese people secure ID documents in order for them to register to vote and cast ballots for the ruling party come election time. During the 2013 election, ethnic Vietnamese in Kandal’s Sa’ang district were blocked from voting by angry crowds, with one man saying the crowd had chanted “Yuon are not allowed to vote,” using a term for Vietnamese often considered derogatory.
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