As the 60th anniversary of the official ceding of the territory called Kampuchea Krom, or lower Cambodia, to Vietnam nears, municipal authorities in Phnom Penh have for a second year in a row refused to allow a ceremony marking the event to be held at a public park in Daun Penh district.
Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said Thursday that the political overtones of the event, which the SRP-affiliated Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community is seeking to hold outside Wat Botum, were unacceptable.
During France’s colonial protectorate, the French parliament on June 4, 1949, transferred the territory of Cochinchina from Cambodian to Vietnamese administration within the former French Union. The region’s sizable Khmer population, which now numbers as high as a million, has lived in southern Vietnam ever since.
“We have not allowed them to use this location for the commemoration in order to protect the neighboring country. I think the Khmer Krom loss of land is past history,” Mr Pa Socheatvong said. “We have a problem in the west, and we did not want to make more problems with the other, eastern neighbor,” he said, alluding to the current border standoff with Thailand at Preah Vihear temple.
The park is also the site of a monument to Vietnamese and Cambodian friendship erected in memory of Vietnam’s 1979 military intervention against the Khmer Rouge.
Last year, both the KKKC and the CPP-affiliated Khmer Kampuchea Krom Coordination Committee sought to use the park to mark the 59th anniversary of the ceding of Kampuchea Krom.
City officials allowed the KKKCC to hold its event at a Dangkao district pagoda, whereas the KKKC was told to mark the event indoors.
KKKC Executive Director Thach Setha, said Thursday that he was saddened by the city’s refusal to allow the event this year.
“This means they support Vietnam, and I’m so sad. But I am still negotiating with them to use this place because the King’s representative is invited too,” he said.
The KKKC had hoped for 2,000 monks to attend the commemoration, he said.
KKKCC Executive Director Kim Van Chheng said his organization would again mark the event separately from the KKKC.
“We are not celebrating this event together because the KKKC focuses on the politics rather than the ceremony. The KKKCC focuses on the Buddhist ceremony, not politics,” he said.