23 May 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy In Daun Keo district, Takeo province, at least 100 families are living in small huts covered with dilapidated roof made out of leaves, alongside a provincial sewer ditch. Even though some of these residents fled from Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam) since the 80s, and others only arrived in the past few years, one of their common problems is their lack of lands for farming or for housing. 40-something Chau Man, who came from Svay Tong district, Moat Chrouk province (An Giang province in Vietnamese), said: “I came in 1996 because in Kampuchea Krom, there was no work. I used to own a plot of land on a hill, it was a mango orchard which provided me with a good income. But, they (the Vietnamese authority) took away my orchard, they turned it into a rock quarry. I am telling you the honest truth. (Since then) we didn’t have anything at all, that made us decide to come and earn a living in Cambodia. (But,) earning a living here is very difficult.” Chau Man provided additional details about his early arrival in Cambodia: “When we first arrived, we begged people for a place to live. I lived in a pig sty, and when it rains, with my children we had to sit up. At first, I worked by pulling a cart at the market, and after that I became a trash scavenger. Since the beginning, they (the Cambodian authority) considered us as immigrants, we are not considered as Khmer Krom who have the same red blood as them. That’s why I said that in Kampuchea Krom, we were attacked by the crocodiles, but when we arrive in Cambodia, the Khmer people, our blood brothers, they don’t care about us, they call us Kampuchea Krom, (this is like being attacked by) tigers.” Thach Luong, who came from Khleang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese) with his 4 children in 1996, said that he has some education, he knows Vietnamese and he knows very well Cambodian, but when he arrived, there was no work for him. Furthermore, his four children were also being discriminated and they were not allowed to attend school. Thach Luong said: “There was no work, all the government positions were filled already. There was nothing left for us who came (to Cambodia) later. Those who arrived in 1979 found some work, as for me, I am fluent in Vietnamese because I attended school up to grade 8, and I also took all the Cambodian classes. In 1973, I had a job (in Vietnam), but later on, the jobs became scarce, I then worked as a porter. When I first arrived in Cambodia, I went to ask (the school) so that 3 of my children could attend classes, I ask them to let me pay for only one out of the three, but they said that they would only allow one of my three children to attend school without paying. I told them then that there was no need (for the children to attend school).” 41-year-old Chau Chan Dara who came from Moat Chrouk province (Chau Doc in Vietnamese) said that the (Cambodian) authority does not recognize Khmer Krom as Cambodian citizens, and they consider them as immigrants. This classification prevented him from finding work. “It’s so difficult to find a porter job, or a shoe repair job, there was no work … they (Cambodian authority) do not care about me as a Khmer Krom, I do not have the same right as others, they said that we are refugees.” Khmer Krom people interviewed by RFA have all indicated that their lands (in Kampuchea Krom) have been confiscated by the Viet authorities, and they were forced to leave their birth land to come to Cambodia, but when they arrived here, they are faced with numerous difficulties: no housing, no jobs, no money, and no assistance from the government. Most Khmer Krom people are working as porters, construction workers, some are working as trash scavengers, some sell cakes on the street, while others are pulling carts to make a living. Mum Channy, a facilitator of the Khmer Krom Human Rigths Defense Associaition, said that there is no assistance whatsoever provided by the Cambodian government to Khmer Krom people who fled to Cambodia. To the contrary, the discrimination against Khmer Krom is on the rise. “No land or housing has been provided by the authority to Khmer Krom people, the authority should provide them a place for them to live, this is not like giving them startup funds. A few days ago, our Khmer Krom people went to borrow money from the village funds, but they were told that they are Khmer Krom, so they couldn’t borrow the money at all. They are being discriminated.” Opposition leader Sam Rainsy recognized these problems, and he also said that Khmer Krom people should receive their legal rights. “They (Khmer Krom) said, they complained, and their complaint is fully legitimate. They said that in Vietnam, they were considered as Cambodians, but when they arrive in Cambodia, they are considered as Vietnamese. So they don’t know where else to turn to, they have no confidence. It is time that we (Cambodian government) recognize their rights as Cambodian citizens, just like any other Cambodian citizens. Therefore, the current administration should pay attention and accept Khmer Krom people who decide to live in Cambodia currently, there should be some means for them to have a decent living, so that they enjoy the same rights as other Cambodian citizens.” CPP MP Chiem Yeap declared that the government has always paid attention to the flow of immigrants (into Cambodia). He denied that there is any discrimination against Khmer Krom. He also requested that (the government) resolves now the issue of the living condition of Khmer Krom people. Chiem Yeap said: “Wherever they are, if they say they are Khmer [as in Khmer Krom], then I call on the local authority, as well as the government authority, and even myself as a lawmaker, if we are faced with such pleading, we cannot avoid but help those who are in need, and we must do whatever we can to push all Khmer [Krom] children who have the same blood as us, to study, to learn in order to defend and rebuild our countries again.” Khmer Krom associations in Cambodia said that currently, about 1.5 million Khmer Krom people are living here. The majority of them live in Phnom Penh city, and some are living in various provinces, they are constantly on the move in search for a better living condition.