Project: Statelessness Project
Date: 26-29, July, 2015
Place: Pursat Province
As part of MIRO’s Statelessness project, MIRO’s staff went on a four day trip to the Pursat Province from July 26th to July 29 to research the situation regarding legal documentation with Ethnic Vietnamese communities and the local authorities. The purpose of the trip was to investigate and record the concerns and problems faced by ethnic Vietnamese communities in the Pursat Province, including the impact of the legal status of the community. The trip included stops at two ethnic Khmer Krom communities in the Bakarn district, Kampang village and KamportAngvillage.
Mr. SimVibol and Mr. Phom Ravy from MIRO Phnom Penh attended alongside one local MIRO staff member, Mr. Noun Nam. Two MIRO interns, Mr. Joe May and Mr. KhornSokhengalso participated in the research trip.
MIRO provincial staff, Mr. Nourn Nam, had contacted and informed the local authorities and the target group a week before the research trip planned by Phnom Penh staff occurred. On the first day inPursat province, MIRO’s team from Phnom Penh conducted a small meeting with provincial staff in order to talk about the provincial staff daily work and the target Floating house in Raing Teul village, Raing Teul Commune.
group’s situation as well updating the news regarding immigration. The next day MIRO started to conduct the legal documentation research at the KoshKa AK village and Raing Teul Village in Khandiengdistrict. The project officer Mr. Phom Ravy firstly introduced MIRO’s project’s plan and work to the target groups, followed up by the conduction of interviews by MIRO’s staff. MIRO managed to interview 15 respondents in KoshKaAk and 16 respondents in RaingTeul village. The interview process was facilitated by the KoshKaAk village chief and the Vietnamese Association chief in Raing Teul. Both help facilitate the collection of data. On the third day of the trip, we went to Kampong Luong commune, which is also located in the Krakor district. Mr. Phom Ravy introduced the purpose of MIRO’s Statelessness Project and MIRO’s work to the community. MIRO’s staff conducted interviews with Vietnamese residents, resulting in 30 individual respondents. The Vietnamese residents seemed very happy to give an interview to MIRO’s team and to share information about their difficulties to MIRO’s staff. All those interviewed seemed very keen and willing to work with MIRO.Earlier in the day MIRO’s team had met with Kampong Luong’s commune chief to share about MIRO’s work and to share plans of a workshop related to the law on nationality. This project was very warmly received. Kampong Luong’s commune chief shared more resident’s data and the situation of the commune which he governs. The commune chief showed his willingness to work with MIRO as well.
We ultimately got 61 respondents, 27 women and 34 men for those 3 communities. We found that all respondents whom we spoke with live without Khmer ID cards, and around 50 % live without immigration paper. As such around 80 % of children can’t go to school because they lack the appropriate legal documents, and to the family’s current state of being.
When interviewed by MIRO’s team, many of the residents expressed strong fears about a number of issues. These concerns included that the Vietnamese people do not have the same rights as Khmer people, and residents often fear arrest and are often subject to threats if they have no legal documentation. Even those that have legal documentation fear that the authorities might not accept their current legal documents (Khmer ID card, family book, etc.). This will mean that their children will not have access to education and other future opportunities. Many shared fears that the immigration paper fee (paid often to local authorities as a bribe) is increasing, and that as income from fishing is decreasing, and due to increased racial discrimination there is little hope in the future. As such, the lack of appropriate legal documents is having a substantial effect on the peoples lives.
All three communities’ that were investigated reported the vast majority of their population have no legal documentation and find it difficult to gain access to work on the mainland partly because of it. Due to the lack of opportunities for work on the mainland, many of them stay within their communities. This has had two direct impacts on the communities. It firstly reinforces local racist attitudes towards the ethnic Vietnamese for staying together, it secondly steadily increasing the population of the villages as no families ever leave the communities. As a by-product, this has led to overfishing of the surrounding waters to help feed the communities and try to earn an income to support families. The scarcity of fish in the area due to over fishing has exacerbated poverty concerns for these communities that have little opportunities for employment elsewhere. Staff at MIRO noted those most at risk from these issues were the children.As many of the families struggle to live, with most living well below the poverty line, children are kept home from school to help fish. As such many miss out on vital early age education. However, even when children attend school, many are unregistered due to their legal status as not being Cambodian citizens. As such they are allowed to attend lessons, but cannot gain any formal qualifications as they cannot sit the required exams. This has led to, and will lead to an increased number of children being trapped in the poverty cycle. Without education, many will struggle to find jobs and thus ultimately stay in their fishing communities. The leaders of these communities expressed fears for themselves and their people of further discrimination by the Cambodian Government, even the threat of deportation to Vietnam, which may not recognize them either and continue the vicious cycle of these communities being stateless.
Challenges of the research trip
Throughout the trip staff at MIRO faced a number of challenges. These ranged from physical challenges to more personal lingual challenges. As the target groups lived in small floating villages, staff at MIRO had to take a 2 hour boat ride to reach the communities. Also, due to the current rainy season, we feared that a storm may happen at any point leaving staff stranded. Upon arrival we had a number of language issues, with many of the interview candidates only having a basic hold of Khmer language. As such MIRO staff had to try their best to communicate using a combination of Khmer and Vietnamese language.
From this investigation trip we have concluded that the members of all target groups continue to require assistance from MIRO. All remained open and willing to work with MIRO in order to help support our efforts to improve their communities and ensure their human rights are upheld. From this the objective of improving overall living conditions, and increasing the number of future opportunities for their children was suggested. By increasing education of human rights, and legal documentation MIRO believes that we can take the first step in to reducing animosity between the ethnic Vietnamese people and the native Khmer people. Furthermore, by providing children with the opportunities to build skills and work on the mainland, a number of future issues may be prevented as well as solving current issues such as over fishing.