No easy homecoming for stateless Vietnamese children from Cambodia

Thanh Nien News

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A lack of citizenship documents means being foreigners in their own native land


 Ta Do Village in Tay Ninh Province near the border with Cambodia is home to around 1,000 Vietnamese who have returned from the neighboring country. These families, for generations, once lived in Cambodia, mostly settling on the Tonle Sap Lake. Stricter immigration rules and a recent fishing ban have forced them to move back to Vietnam since 2012. Photos: Khai Tran/Zing
Now there are more than 200 of such families in the village. Many people were born and grew up in Cambodia. Without citizenship documents, they cannot find a proper job other than catching fish, just like they did for many years in Cambodia. Many woman make fish pie for a living. 
 The village has no electricity or toilets. Some philanthropists have recently helped connect the villagers to clean water supply for the price of VND10,000, or less than half a dollar, per family a month.
 This hut over nine square meters will be home for 20 people.
 Most of the children here were born in Cambodia. Without birth certificates, they cannot attend Vietnamese public schools. Many of them thus started working at a very young age, selling lottery tickets to fishing, for VND10,000-50,000 a day.
 Nhung, 13, looks after younger siblings as her mother goes to work. She has been promised a job at a plantation in the Central Highlands.
Meals are almost always rice and fish. “I really crave a piece of pork with some fat. But we don’t have money for that,” a girl said. 
 The children wear donated clothes.
 Their dreams, they say, is to have full meals and a house with walls. Some wish they can go to school.
Some parents can afford to send their children to a class around two kilometers away. The teacher teaches them Vietnamese and maths, for a fee of VND3,000 a day. 
 The village looks more miserable on a rainy day.
 Boys fetch some sticks home for building a hut.
 A family count their catch from a day long trip, which is just enough for dinner and to sell for some rice and vegetables.
 Men (R), 12, helps his family fish.
You can find the original Vietnamese story here on Zing.

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