B’bang Police Disperse Khmer Krom Camp

Police dispersed an encampment of people calling themselves the Khmer Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front on Tues­day in Battambang prov­ince’s Phnom Proek district, prov­incial police Chief Heng Chan­tha said.

The 69 people in the camp—14 women, 19 children and 36 men—were not arrested because they had been duped into an aid scam, Heng Chantha said.

“They were cheated into coming here to be Khmer Krom refu­gees to get food supplies and mon­ey from the US. Now we are trying to educate them to return to their original location. Most of them are from Phnom Penh, Koh Kong province, Kandal province and some districts in Battam­bang,” Heng Chantha said.

He said that the people in the camp, which had been established for only one day, would be housed in a local school Tuesday evening and emphasized that they were being “educated, not arrested.”

The self-confessed leader and founder of the makeshift camp, how­ever, maintained that the site was an authentic refugee camp.

“I created a refugee camp to struggle for liberation of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom land from Vietnam, which they have oc­cupied more than 50 years,” said Soeung Reth Tuesday, speak­ing by telephone in a moving vehicle. He said he was in Battambang province but would not reveal his exact whereabouts.

“My force is more than 100,” Soeung Reth said. “All of them are volunteers who joined forces to liberate the Khmer Krom land.”

Asked why his refugees did not seek the assistance or association of NGOs who serve the Khmer Krom community, Soeung Reth that the NGOs could never liberate his land.  “It is my policy not to join the NGOs to show that we are refugees,” he said.

Soeung Reth said he hopes his group will receive assistance from the US, the European Union and the UN.

No weapons were found in the camp and police will not try to arrest Soeung Reth, Heng Chan­tha said.

Thach Setha, director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Com­munity—an umbrella association for 11 NGOs—said he knew nothing about the Phnom Proek camp or the Khmer Kam­puchea Krom National Liber­ation Front.

“But the Vietnam government, if it wanted to crack down, it would need to create the problem,” he said. Thach Setha added that his group serves only the Khmer Krom community in Cambodia.


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