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Title: General Condition of Education for Stateless Ethnic Vietnamese Children in Cambodia

Lead Presenter: Soum, Butmao


  1. None

Session Abstract: Ethnic Vietnamese is one and largest of over thirty ethnic minority groups in Cambodia, due to a long history remark between Cambodia and Vietnam, this minority is most subjected to discrimination. In generations, they are living inability to obtain legal documents for applying social service. This case is effected to their next generation, especially their children are unable to applying for primary school because lack of basic document ‘Birth Registration’. Report finding in May 2019, Less than 2 percent of ethnic Vietnamese children are able to access public school. In accordance with international instruments and national law is ensured to promote the justice of education such as: The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. The ASEAN human rights declaration article 31 (1) Every person has the right to education. (2) Primary education shall be compulsory and made available free to all. Cambodia Constitutional Law 1993, article 48 (p1) The State shall protect the rights of children as stipulated in the Convention on Children, in particular, the right to life, education, protection during wartime, and from economic or sexual exploitation. Currently, the justice education standard for ethnic Vietnamese children in Cambodia is not applied follow the international instrument and the national law yet. The lost opportunity for children to access their basic rights especially education affects socio-economic community development. It can increase gender discrimination and domestic violence because of the poverty. Generally, ethnic Vietnamese cannot find a better job than fishing. This is a real concern for the Cambodian society. Since August 2014, Minority Rights Organization (MIRO) have been trying its best to enhance social justice for interethnic children through project ‘Supporting of school attendance for interethnic needy children in some communities of provinces: Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, and Prey Veng’. Through our activities, we are supporting over 200 interethnic needy children ‘85% ethnic Vietnamese children’ are able to access both school state and informal school. There are a lot of interethnic children be waiting for access their justice education, but they are still in behind of our supporting because of fund constrain. Therefore, we, Minority Rights Organization (MIRO) would like to invite all relevant stakeholders, civil society and the government to take the situation of education for interethnic children especially ethnic Vietnamese children, as mentioned above issues, into account and resolve it in order to develop the society in Cambodia. “They are should be received an equal rights (justice) to access education by non-discrimination”. Based on the analysis with data from 301 ethnic Vietnamese respondents (female 55 per cent) 83 per cent of whom live in the floating communities especially a long Tonle Sap Lake, the study identified a number of general characteristics of stateless children: 99 per cent of their parents are ethnic Vietnamese at birth and have not only been living in Cambodia for generations, but also 95 per cent of them were born in Cambodia. Up to 76.74 per cent of the parents do fishing to support their families. Parents of ethnic Vietnamese children have no hope that their children will be able to access state school since they are not Cambodians. Many believe that they are not valued in the Cambodian society. The study found the problems stateless children face are: without birth registration, only 5.4 per cent of ethnic Vietnamese children have a letter from a hospital that confirms the birth, which is requirement to register a birth with the authorities. Parents do not understand the importance of education; instead of sending their children to school, they have to help with fishing or take care of younger siblings. Stateless children are unable to access state school, find a good job, build their skills and personal capacities and contribute to the development of their communities. Also, their communication is limited because they do not learn to speak the Khmer language, and their living standard is lower than that of their parents. The findings have determined the impact of the legal identity of children on their education: many children are left behind because they are not properly documented. As shown in Graph10, the study finds that over 75 per cent of ethnic Vietnamese children help their parent with fishing, while 11 per cent look after their younger siblings, 10 per cent help with housework, and 4 per cent collect garbage for recycling to contribute to the family income. In the future, all children will be poorer than their parents because the Tonle Sap River and Lake are over-fished and they can no longer catch enough fish. They cannot find better work than fishing, do menial labor, or collect garbage because they have no skills and knowledge to compete. Moreover, this affects the socio-economic development of their communities and can increase gender discrimination and domestic violence. Graph 7 shows that 99.60 per cent of ethnic Vietnamese hold permanent resident cards for immigrant aliens with a validity of two years. The document cannot be used for applying for any legal document, like a birth certificate, identification card, land title, marriage certificate, etc. This document only recognizes the legality of the residence in Cambodia. After seven years, card holders have the right to apply for Cambodian nationality. The situation puts the basic rights of children at high risk, especially in the field of education. Without a birth certificate, ethnic Vietnamese children have no right to access state school; they can only attend informal schools, like schools various Christian churches or and the Vietnamese Association have set up in their communities.

Session Material:

  1. Presentation Slides_Butmao Cambodia
  2. Presentation Statement_Butmao Cambodia
  3. Stateless Children in Cambodia_May 2019

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