Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed

Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the ministry's annual meeting on Friday in Phnom Penh. Photo suppli
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the ministry's annual meeting on Friday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied.

Immigrants’ children to see citizenship reviewed

The Ministry of Interior plans to retroactively strip citizenship from children of immigrants whom they say were mistakenly awarded Cambodian nationality as long as 30 years ago, according to Interior Minister Sar Kheng and director-general of immigration Sok Phal.

Speaking on Friday during the Immigration Department’s annual meeting, Phal explained that for the last three decades, commune chiefs have occasionally illegally given Cambodian birth certificates, and therefore Cambodian citizenship, to children of non-naturalised immigrants.

“For more than 30 years, the children of migrants got Cambodian citizenship at birth because commune chiefs issued it for them. It is illegal,” Phal said.

“Now, the Ministry of Interior will issue new, different birth certificates to them. The children will get the original citizenship of their parents. If they get Cambodian citizenship through the law, they can change to Cambodian nationality,” he added.

Kheng, who closed the meeting, agreed with the suggestion. “The children of immigrants should get their original citizenship from their parents,” he said.

According to the ministry’s own report, the policy would mostly affect Vietnamese immigrants living in Cambodia. Of the 19,437 families that have legally migrated to Cambodia since 2012, 11,103 of them are Vietnamese. Neither Phal nor Kheng accused any specific commune of wrongdoing, nor did they set out a timeframe for any such review process.

The Kingdom’s Law on Nationality states that citizenship is only conferred by birth upon children who have at least one parent who is a Cambodian citizen, or children whose parents were born in Cambodia, but are not themselves citizens.

The Kingdom’s recent voter registration drive – which required residents to present proof of citizenship – was meant to put to rest longstanding claims of non-Cambodians voting, though the National Election Committee’s review of the new voter list did not include an examination of whether those citizenship documents had been legally granted in the first place.

The opposition, meanwhile, has long railed against what they say are illegal Vietnamese voters casting votes for the ruling party. Others, however, have countered that ethnically Vietnamese Cambodians, even ones whose families have been in Cambodia for generations, are denied access to government documentation and services by virtue of their race.

Political analyst Ou Virak said the current immigration system is in desperate need of reform to prevent these kinds of complications. Calling the citizenship laws “very restrictive”, Virak said the government needs to “come up with better policies and better explanations”.

“The real debate should be whether or not the law should be amended to make the process more reasonable,” Virak said, claiming the CPP has avoided addressing immigration issues because of the party’s controversial ties to Vietnam.

“Their biggest baggage is coming to power as a Vietnam-backed government . . . They don’t want to debate because of that association,” he said.

Moeun Tola, director of migrant rights group CENTRAL, appealed to the government to respect human rights as they prepare to investigate migrants who may have been wrongly granted citizenship.

“Whether they are legal migrants, illegal migrants or legal citizens, their fundamental rights and freedoms should be guaranteed,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,

  • 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival draws to close

    Cambodia's 11th Chaktomuk Short Film Festival wrapped up successfully on November 28 after a four-day run, with the film “Voice of the Night” awarded top prize for 2022. Sum Sithen, the organiser of the short film festival, told The Post that the number of attendees to the