Floating houses on the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh. — Photo courtesy of Vũ Quang Minh, Ambassador of Việt Nam to Cambodia
HÀ NỘI — The Vietnamese foreign ministry has called on Cambodian authorities to ensure the welfare of people of Vietnamese origin, after Phnom Penh last week ordered the eviction of many households in floating villages on the Tonle Sap River.
The spokesperson for the ministry Lê Thị Thu Hằng made the statement on Thursday in Hà Nội in response to questions over the fate of Vietnamese households affected by Phnom Penh’s decision.
Cambodia authorities said they would dismantle and relocate the floating houses, fish farms, and other “unregulated and illegal structures” on the river surface due to waterway pollution and disruption and asked everyone living in these structures to move out immediately.
The Vietnamese-origin Cambodian community are ethnic Vietnamese people who moved into Cambodia – mainly in the Tonle Sap River area – and have made a living there for generations, with neither Vietnamese nor Cambodian citizenship papers.
The Vietnamese Government still provides some support for them and frequently works with Cambodian authorities to grant legal papers to these people.
Hằng said Việt Nam “pays attention to this information,” and during a June 6 meeting between Vietnamese foreign minister Bùi Thanh Sơn and his Cambodian counterpart Prak Sokhonn, Sơn again asked Cambodia to address the legal status of the people of Vietnamese origin in Cambodia.
“He also asked that the Cambodian authorities have a reasonable roadmap in the implementation of their socio-economic policies to ensure the rights and welfare of the Vietnamese community, and enable the people affected by the policies to soon return to stability, to either keep their current work or switch to another appropriate occupation and to have full access to essential services,” Hằng informed the press.
On June 4-7, Vũ Quang Minh, Ambassador of Việt Nam to Cambodia, paid an in-person visit to the Vietnamese origin people in Cambodia in the eviction-affected area, Hằng noted.
“The State Commission on Overseas Vietnamese and the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia have requested Cambodia to provide favourable conditions and practical relocation support for the affected people, ensuring the humanitarian spirit and the legitimate rights of the people here,” she added.
The Cambodian side has acknowledged Việt Nam’s requests and said the Cambodian government will continue to enable Vietnamese students and workers to study and work in Cambodia, and to provide favourable conditions for people of Vietnamese origin to enjoy stable livelihoods in this country.
“Việt Nam understands Cambodia’s socio-economic policies and the need to protect the environment, but we also hope that the relocation will be conducted based on a reasonable and feasible roadmap, and new settlement areas will be arranged with all essential infrastructure, allowing for the relocated people to soon stabilise their lives and have their social welfare safeguarded,” the spokesperson said.
Hằng said that in recent times, Vietnamese representatives and diplomatic missions in Cambodia have together with the Khmer-Việt Nam Association in Cambodia provided support for multiple households of people of Vietnamese origin to relocate to new settlements in keeping with the Cambodian government’s guidelines and their lives have started to become more stable.
“Following the instructions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vietnamese diplomatic mission in Cambodia will continue to monitor Cambodia’s relocation plan and the situation of the Vietnamese origin community here and co-operate with the Khmer-Việt Nam Association in Cambodia to render timely and practical assistance to our fellow countrymen,” Hằng said.
Naval base in Cambodia
Asked for a response from Việt Nam to reports that China is helping Cambodia modernise its Ream naval base on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand, spokesperson Hằng said as neighbouring countries to both Cambodia and China, Việt Nam wishes to uphold the co-operation and traditional friendship and maintain good neighbourliness with both countries.
“Việt Nam hopes that the relations between China and Cambodia will contribute to the upholding of peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region and in the world,” Hằng said. — VNS