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Chinese Fleeing Vietnam into Cambodia as Tensions Mount

Chinese investors arrive at the Bavet border checkpoint on the Cambodia-Vietnam border on Wednesday, May 14, 2014, after fleeing anti-China violence in southern Vietnam that has seen at least 15 foreign factories burned, file photo.
Chinese citizens in Vietnam have begun crossing the border into Cambodia, with anti-Chinese protests over the South China Sea conflict turning violent there, officials said Wednesday.

Thousands of protesters have gathered in Vietnam, angered by the deployment by China of an oilrig in contested waters in the sea. Vietnamese mobs have set fire to Chinese and Taiwanese factories in the south of the country.

That has caused “a lot” of Chinese living there to leave for Cambodia, said Trung Van Thong, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

“They [Chinese] were not expelled from [Vietnam],” he told VOA Khmer. “It is their personal decision. I don’t know the reason why the Chinese no longer want to live there. I don’t know if they might want to move to Cambodia or other places.”

The number of Chinese who may have come across from Vietnam is unclear. Sok Phal, head of the Ministry of Interior’s immigration department, could not be reached for comment. Koueng Chhourn, chief of police for Svay Rieng province, where the border crossing at Bavet is situated, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Sem Chi, head of the Association of Khmer Vietnamese in the Kingdom of Cambodia, said his members plan to protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh some time this week.

“We will hold [a demonstration] but wait until I come back [from the provinces] to discuss with our commission,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said such protest would not be allowed.

“Foreigners cannot use Cambodian territory to stage a protest against another group of foreigners,” he said. “It is not allowed by law."