The national assemblies of Cambodia and Vietnam plan to sign an agreement to strengthen cooperation between parliamentarians in the two nations this morning, Cambodian National Assembly President Heng Samrin said Wednesday.
A Vietnamese delegation of 26 lawmakers arrived in Phnom Penh Wednesday for a four-day trip intended to increase dialogue and information-sharing between lawmakers in the two nations.
“We will sign a bilateral agreement to exchange delegates between the two nations,” Heng Samrin told reporters outside the Assembly in Phnom Penh.
He declined to specify in which areas Vietnam and Cambodia plan to cooperate more closely. But discussions will not include controversial topics in Cambodia such as illegal immigration, border issues or anything related to ethnic Khmers living in Vietnam, he said.
Heng Samrin added that issues around the Khmer Krom are an internal matter for the Vietnamese.
“It is not possible to have talks about internal matters of other nations,” he added.
Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Krom Association in Cambodia, said that anyone who is ethnically Khmer should have protection under Cambodian law.
“I would like the government to clarify who we are. Are we Khmer?” he asked.
SRP lawmaker Keo Remy also said that issues surrounding Khmer Krom should be on the table for discussion with Vietnam. “This is a golden opportunity for Assembly leaders,” he said. “If Khmer Krom are happy, Cambodians everywhere are happy.”
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that while the government cares about Khmer Krom people, they live within Vietnam’s borders and thus fall under their jurisdiction.
“Our King Father [Norodom Sihanouk] already agreed that Kampuchea Krom is a part of Vietnam,” he added.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam confirmed that Vietnamese National Assembly President Nguyen Phu Trong would meet Heng Samrin today to sign the agreement. “The two assembly presidents will only talk within the framework of legislation. They want to understand each other about the works of the assembly,” he said.
Trinh Ba Cam declined to comment on discussion of Khmer Krom issues, saying that Heng Samrin had already made clear that they would not be discussed.