The International Observatory on Statelessness


The U.S. Department of State estimates that several thousand stateless persons are in Cambodia. The nationality law provides that citizenship is derived by birth from parents with Cambodian citizenship or from a foreign mother and father who were born in and living legally in the country. Accordingly, persons belonging to minority groups, in particular ethnic Vietnamese, have difficulty establishing their citizenship. The 1996 nationality law also does not outline minority rights and extends constitutional protections to nationals of Khmer ethnicity only.

Complicated birth and civil registration processes also contribute to statelessness in Cambodia. Although Cambodia has made an effort to ease registration processes, many stateless persons cannot afford the fees or bribe money to register, nor can they afford to make the trip to the registration office.

Nationality rights of members of the Khmer Krom minority group are also at risk. The Khmer Krom are an ethnic Khmer minority residing in southern Vietnam. Some members’ political activism has led to harsh crackdowns by Vietnamese authorities. The Cambodian government has stated that it considers Khmer Krom who move to Cambodia to be Cambodian citizens. Under this official policy, Khmer Krom have not been able to apply for refugee status at UNHCR. However, Human Rights Watch reported in January 2009 that Khmer Krom fleeing persecution or discrimination in Vietnam are unable to obtain Cambodian citizenship documents.