Two groups, one SRP-affiliated and the other CPP-affiliated, held separate ceremonies in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning to mark the 59th anniversary of the official ceding of Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam.
Although held at different locations, the SRP-affiliated Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community and the CPP-affiliated Khmer Kampuchea Krom Coordination Committee ceremonies were similar in theme, with both groups honoring the memory of those who died when the territory was lost to Vietnam.
Around 1,200 Buddhist monks and participants gathered at the crowded KKKC office, some sitting in chairs lining the street in front of their headquarters in Russei Keo district.
KKKC Executive Director Thach Setha said during the ceremony that he was concerned over the divide between the two groups, noting that this was the first time ever that the ceremony was held at two different locations.
“We want [the KKKCC] to cooperate and think of Khmer Krom freedom, religion and education,” he said, adding that it was the first time the ceremony was not held either in the park in front of the National Museum or the park in front of Wat Botum.
Controversy erupted in the lead-up to the annual ceremony when the rival groups both requested to hold their respective ceremonies at Wat Botum park.
The SRP-affiliated KKKC made a further request to the municipality to hold the ceremony at a pagoda, but were instructed to hold the ceremony at their office. However, the CPP-aligned KKKCC were granted permission by the municipality to gather at Wat Angtaming Pagoda in Dangkao district.
KKKCC Executive Director Kim Van Chheng said during his ceremony Wednesday, which around 800 Buddhist monks and participants attended, that the group could not join together with the KKKC because they would politicize the event.
“I could not join with the KKKC led by Thach Setha because they used the event to criticize the government, and we just wanted to commemorate with silence,” he said.