Cambodia deported 142 Chinese nationals to China at the weekend for involvement in telecommunications fraud scams, loading them on two charter planes from Phnom Penh in the latest mass expulsion of Chinese accused of crimes in the Southeast Asian country, a spokesman said on Monday.
The Interior Ministry had deported 116 Chinese nationals on Sept. 28, while the General Department of Immigration also sent 26 Chinese back to China on Sept. 25 after authorities found them guilty of committing telecommunications fraud, immigration spokesman Keo Vanthorn told RFA’s Khmer Service.
The 116 Chinese nationals were arrested by the Ministry of Interior's National Police earlier this month in Phnom Penh, while the 26 others were arrested last month in Svay Reang province’s Bavet City, he said.
"The deportations this time are not over,” Keo Vanthorn told RFA. “We will continue to expel more," he said.
The spokesman said Cambodia was holding 72 other Chinese nationals who have not been expelled yet because Interior Minister Sar Kheng has yet to sign a deportation document. The 72 are being held in detention centers in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap province and Preah Sihanouk province.
"We will expel those Chinese nationals and will not wait for the Chinese side if the Interior Minister calls for the deportation," he said.
The 116 expelled on Saturday were among 323 Chinese nationals picked up in in three separate places in Phnom Penh in early August on suspicion of and telecoms fraud and extortion, said Keo Vanthorn.
Authorities determined that 116 Chinese people had been involved in telecoms fraud and allowed the others to go back to work because they had legal papers and did not commit any crime, he said.
The Department of Immigration has expelled 537 Chinese nationals so far in 2019, the spokesman said.
In August, Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, working with Chinese police, arrested 150 Chinese nationals in both Sihanoukville and Svay Rieng province’s town of Bavet, on Cambodia’s border with Vietnam, deporting them to face charges in connection with a scam that China’s official Xinhua news agency said had defrauded more than 10,000 victims in 28 Chinese provinces of around U.S. $14 million.
A recent report by the National Police, under Cambodia’s Ministry of the Interior, said that there are some 250,000 Chinese nationals living in Cambodia, including around 100,000 each in the capital Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk province.
Chinese investment has flowed into casinos, hotels, and real estate in Cambodia—particularly in Preah Sihanouk province and its largest town, Sihanoukville, turning the once sleepy seaside town into a flash point for Cambodians concerned about Chinese economic penetration of their country.
Reported and translated by Pheap Aun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.