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False Promises – Exploring the Citizenship Rights of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia

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CCHR PRESS RELEASE – Phnom Penh, 4 July 2011

CCHR Releases Report Examining the Citizenship Rights of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia

Following months of extensive research, The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”), a non-aligned, independent, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect democracy and respect for human rights throughout Cambodia, today releases a report titled “False Promises: Exploring the Citizenship Rights of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia” (the “Report”).

The Report explores and analyzes the contradiction between the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (“RGC”) public confirmation that the ethnic Khmer from South Vietnam (the “Khmer Krom”) are Cambodian citizens, and the practical difficulties faced by the Khmer Krom who try to access the benefits of their Cambodian citizenship by applying for citizenship identity cards (“ID cards”) which are required to unlock the rights and benefits that are attached to citizenship/nationality such as employment, education, and property rights land rights.

The plight of the Khmer Krom was highlighted again recently when in June 2011 it was reported that seven Khmer Krom asylum seekers were deported back to Cambodia after they had crossed the border into Thailand in an attempt to seek resettlement. One of the deportees stated that they had made the decision to cross the border because the Cambodian government had yet to award them legal nationality paperwork and they were afraid they would be arrested and deported to Vietnam. The seven Khmer Krom were part of a larger group that left Vietnam in 2008 fearing persecution, seeking asylum in Thailand.

The story of this Khmer Krom group is but one example of the struggles the Khmer Krom face in accessing their rights of citizenship, as outlined in the Report. The Report reveals worrying trends of Khmer Krom being asked by the authorities responsible for the issuing of ID cards to change their family name to a Khmer name and their registered place of birth to a location in Cambodia in order that they may be issued with the ID cards on the basis that they are Cambodian Khmer. This practice is the result of a lack of understanding amongst the issuing authorities cards as to the status of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia. The practice is illegal and deprives Khmer Krom individuals of their identity.

The central and overriding recommendation of the Report is for the RGC to put an immediate end to the uncertain situation that faces Khmer Krom who arrive in Cambodia by confirming their Khmer citizenship/nationality through the creation of a coherent framework that is specifically designed to facilitate Khmer Krom applications for ID cards. If a Khmer Krom citizen is unable to satisfy the legal requirements to establish his/her Khmer ethnicity, it is recommended that the authorities make a decision that the individual in question is treated as Vietnamese in order that he/she can seek protection in Cambodia as a refugee. The Report also calls on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to examine the situation of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia and in third countries and to make a determination as to their status in refugee law and the law relating to stateless persons.

The Report is available to view or download in Khmer and English on the Cambodian Human Rights Portal www.sithi.org and on the CCHR website www.cchrcambodia.org

For more information, please contact Ou Virak via telephone at +855 (0) 12 40 40 51 or e-mail at

Notes to the Editor:
CCHR was founded in November 2002.
CCHR President Ou Virak won the 2007 Reebok Human Rights Award for his work promoting freedom of expression.
CCHR is a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (“IFEX”), the global network
for free expression.

Link To Report in Khmer: http://www.box.net/shared/u58nc2148sg36n0idq02

Link to Report in English: http://www.box.net/shared/m5xg6fi7c8pre5ncnho6