… Please allow me today from Wat Tronum Chroeung to make an important political decision. As we finish the construction of the temple in Wat Tronum Chroeung, in the history of which recorded the escape of the members of Cambodian royal family here, as well as its limitless extension of charity and humanity, I wish to make a political statement on a current issue. This event has started a year ago and it was like a piece of bone stuck in the neck making me speechless.
… It is an issue relating to the ethnic people in the mountainous area of Vietnam who have illegally crossed the border to Cambodia’s Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri provinces in March 2001. The situation has brought us headaches and I do not speak of the cause why such an incident took place. However the event has prompted Cambodia to face with various difficulties, let alone the setup of camps for them to stay in the past year. The efforts collaboratively made by Cambodia, Vietnam and the UNHCR to repatriate those people have failed. War of words between Vietnam and the United States have put Cambodia in a very difficult position. Cambodia is compared to a football field in which Vietnam and the United States compete. In this regard, my colleagues and I, especially HE Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, have pooled out our efforts to try and seek a solution to end the issue.
… Previously, Cambodians escaped to Thailand and other countries, but as of now, some of them returned, even they have already settled in the United States, France, Australia, etc. This indicates clearly that Cambodia is at peace. But it is unpredictable at all that Cambodia encounters with this incident of illegal border crossing (into Cambodia.) Before we have arrested them and sent them back to the original countries. For example we have collaborated with Australia to arrest and send back illegal immigrants from Pakistan and Indonesia, etc. We have done the same with Chinese immigrants. The crisis has lasted for a year and I have decided today to make a decision that bears a sovereign nature in resolving the issue by taking into consideration positions expressed by related parties, the United States of America, Vietnam, UNHCR and others. The deadlock has prolonged and if we let it stay unresolved those ethnic minority Vietnamese would suffer greater difficulties in their provisional camps in the provinces of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri. This would create difficulties for all concerned parties, Cambodia as host also included.
… As repatriation effort initiated by Cambodia, Vietnam and the UNHCR failed, and as the United States has proposed to the Royal Government of Cambodia to take these ethnic people for resettlement in the US, Cambodia could make a political decision. As part of this development, Vietnam has made clear a position that Vietnam would welcome voluntary returnees back to Vietnam and guarantees their safety and dignity. Therefore the Royal Government of Cambodia decides to offer opportunity for those hill tribe people to resettle in the United States of America on the voluntary basis and offered by the United States. This should also offer the return to Vietnam for those who do not choose to go to the United States. It is a political decision with options.
… Firstly, those who would voluntarily like to go to the United States should travel from Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri to Phnom Penh or places identified as closest to the Pochentong International Airport in preparation for departure to the United States. Within three or four weeks, secondly, if any people wish to go back to Vietnam, the repatriation would also take place. Cambodia would then definitely close the camps and prevent newcomers from coming in. After the previous return to Vietnam by about 200 people, there left 901 people in the camp. We have only two doors to the problems. There is no a third door. No one could choose to stay in Cambodia indefinitely at all. As Cambodia is making this decision, Cambodia is also seeking understanding from concerned parties, namely the United States of America and Vietnam. It is a sovereign decision in my capacity as Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia aimed at fulfilling a humanitarian obligation and a political decision with humanist nature on an international issue… Having made this decision, I would like to take this opportunity to state that:
- The Royal Government of Cambodia highly values and thanks the US Government for its humanitarian gesture in receiving those Vietnamese hill tribes to resettle in the United States of America, which would bring about an end to the hardship of those people and of Cambodia. I wish to thank Washington for such a brave political decision in providing resettlement opportunity to those ethnic people of Vietnam, a neighbor of Cambodia ending quickly a one-year discontent.
- Cambodia highly values and thanks the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam for its readiness to take back those people who would want to go back to Vietnam. It highly appreciates such a humanitarian and understanding gesture of Vietnam for the latter’s acceptance to welcome back those who would want to return to Vietnam. This gesture enables Cambodia to generate this decision today.
- Cambodia would like to make an appeal to the UNHCR to help Cambodia and the United States of America in organizing those people who would want to go to the United States. I also would make the same appeal to the UNHCR to help Cambodia and Vietnam in organizing those people who would want to return to Vietnam so that they could leave as soon as possible. The provisional camps in Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri would no longer exist.
- I would order the institutions and authorities concerned at all levels to cooperate with Vietnam to prevent further influx of illegal immigrants under whatever forms it may be. So after the 901 people accepted by the United States, Cambodia would implement its immigration law by arresting and sending back those identified as illegal immigrants. As in the case that we have detained the Karen who illegally penetrated into Pailin area and sent them back to the Thai border.
… I hope that such a sovereign and humanitarian decision would be responded with understanding from the international community.