City Hall Bans Khmer Krom Ceremony in Freedom Park

City Hall has rejected a request from the Khmer Krom community to allow them to hold a ceremony at Freedom Park next month because that area is for “advocacy,” and not Buddhist ceremonies.

June 4 marks the 66th anniversary of the day that France officially ceded its Cochinchina colony, which included the former Kampuchea Krom provinces, to Vietnam—an episode in history that still irks many Cambodians.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, which is headed by Thach Setha—a member of the CNRP standing committee and an advisor to the party’s deputy president Kem Sokha—on Thursday had their Freedom Park plans rejected in a meeting with deputy municipal governor Khuong Sreng.

“Freedom Park is a place for advocacy and their ceremony is a Buddhist ceremony so they have to mark it at a pagoda or private place,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said after the meeting last night.

Mr. Dimanche said municipal officials and security officers were also busy preparing for a separate ceremony to honor King Norodom Sihamoni on June 3.

“We don’t have time to think about them,” Mr. Dimanche said. “Our decision is not related to politics, it is related to security.”

At last year’s ceremony, which went ahead at the predominantly Khmer Krom Samakki Raingsey pagoda despite City Hall banning the event, Mr. Sokha went on a tirade against the Vietnamese, saying that the 2010 stampede on Koh Pich island that killed 353 was engineered by Vietnam.

Asked if similar rhetoric could be expected next week, Mr. Setha said that this year’s ceremony was “organized by the Khmer Krom community, and not to do with the CNRP.”

Mr. Setha said thousands of monks and laypeople would gather at Wat Chas on the Chroy Changva peninsula, and slammed the City Hall restriction.

“It is a traditional Buddhist ceremony, not a concert,” he said. “If the prime minister doesn’t want people to call him a Vietnamese puppet, he should allow us to mark this day in public for all Cambodian people.”

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