Project: Statelessness Project
Date: July 9-12, 2015
Place: Takeo Province
Project Officer: Phom Ravy
As part of MIRO’s Statelessness project, MIRO’s staff went on a four day research trip to the Takeo Province from July 9 to July 12 to research the situation regarding the legal documentation with ethnic Vietnamese communities and authorities. The purpose of the trip was to investigate and record the concerns and problems faced by the ethnic Vietnamese communities in the Takeo Province, including the impact of the legal status of the community. The trip included stops at the ethnically Vietnamese community in the province, Roka Khnong Commune, Snor village.
Two MIRO staff members from Phnom Penh, Mr. SimVibol, adviser, and Mr. Phom Ravy, project officer, one local MIRO staff member, Mr. MormMonny, and two MIRO interns, Ms. Lauren Schoenster and Mr. KhornSokheng, participated in the research trip.
MIRO provincial staff, Mr. MormMonny, had contacted and informed the local authorities, Vietnamese community chief, as well as the target group a week before the research trip planned by Phnom Penh staff occurred. On the first day of arrival, MIRO’s team had a meeting in order to discuss with provincial staff their daily work, the research trip project plan, and what improvement and skills the staff needed to develop, such as management skills. After a two hour meeting, the staff went to visit the Vietnamese community in Snor village and met the Vietnamese Association’s chief in order to discuss the next day activities plan. On the second day of the trip, Mr. Ravy lead the interviews with the ethnic Vietnamese with the guidance of Mr. Dang Yangnam, the chief of the Vietnamese Association. During the conduction of interviews, Ravy informed the respondents of the purpose of the project. After two days of interviews, we got 62 respondents, 35 men and 27 women, including the chief of the Vietnamese Association. We also obtained some information about the situation of the village and the VN resident’s data. We found that there are 1623 Vietnamese families, a total of 6492 individuals, in Takeo province, and there are 309 families, a total of 1236 individuals, specifically in Takeo town. After the interviews we were able to assess that the majority of the respondents are currently living without any legal documents, such as a Khmer ID card. Just around 5% of the interviewees had immigration papers. Respondents shared with MIRO their worries and the difficult conditions in which they are currently living. They do not feel comfortable in Cambodia as they do not have the same rights as Khmer people. The lack of documents means that they cannot work in any place besides the village, since they could face arrest and deportation. Many VN work in recycling, small businesses and on the fishing and trading boats. The respondents were specially worried about the children and their future because they are not receiving a formal education. The lack of legal documents implies that their children cannot go to school, since they lack the Khmer birth certificate necessary for registration. Many children in the community do not speak Khmer and work from an early age. MIRO team also visited the Vietnamese school which is being built by the Vietnamese Association very near to the village where the respondents live. The construction is not yet finished and the classes have not started. All Vietnamese residents were very happy that there will be a school close to their community and they hope that their children can go to school just like Khmer children.
On the last day of the research trip, MIRO team visited the Khmer Krom communities both in Roka Knong and Roka Kroav commune where MIRO conducted research during previous field trips. The Khmer Krom people were very happy that MIRO visited them.
Respondents expressed many of their concerns when interviewed by MIRO’s team. These concerns included that all Vietnamese residents are living under poor conditions. They have to rent a house while their income is very low, so most of their salary is spent paying for accommodation. The majority of VN respondents do not have any legal document, even immigration papers. Every day they constantly worry of getting arrested. In addition, without any legal documents they cannot go to work in factories in any of the provinces.
After the interviews, we found that the vast majority of the respondents live without legal documents and under poor conditions. They find it difficult to gain access to work on the mainland because of their lack of documentation. All respondents worry about their safety because of the constant fear of being arrested by authorities. They worry about the future of their children since they currently do not have access to state schools due to lack of legal documents.
Challenges of the research trip
During the research trip to Takeo province, MIRO team encountered some challenges. The Vietnamese families had to leave home for work early in the morning because of their financial condition, so it was so hard to get an interview with them. Some had to go to Vietnam for work. Also, during part of the interviews we had to rely on a translator since some of them could not speak Khmer.
After the field research trip we concluded that the ethnic Vietnamese community at Snor village and the local authorities continue to remain open and willing to work with MIRO in order to help support our efforts for improving the community’s opportunities and rights, as well as achieving a better living condition for the ethnic Vietnamese people in Cambodia. We found that all of the Vietnamese respondents are living under bad conditions as they do not have legal documents, a house of their own or any properties. The foreigner census that is being conducted by the government of Cambodia represents a real threat of deportation to members of the VN community. As a result of the census, more than a thousand Vietnamese that did not possess the required immigration documents in Cambodia were deported to Vietnam since August last year1 legal research on how to best support the needs of these Vietnamese communities, in order to be able to better address its Statelessness project plan. MIRO will set further dates to analyze the feedback and gather additional