Five more members of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority have fled from southern Vietnam into Cambodia after anti-Hanoi protests, a Khmer Krom representative claimed Monday.
San Savang, director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Friends Association, claimed the five are in Takeo province after crossing the Vietnamese border Monday morning.
“They escaped to Cambodia after they became afraid that Vietnamese authorities would arrest them,” he said.
Several representatives of the Khmer Krom—ethnic Khmer living in former Khmer territory in present day southern Vietnam—have claimed that protests calling for greater Khmer Krom rights and an end to land confiscation began in Vietnam’s Soc Trang and Can Tho provinces Feb 6.
San Savang said the five had not joined the ongoing protests but feared arrest because their relatives had participated.
Kim Sisamnang, leader of the Patriotic Alliance for Khmer Kampuchea Krom, claimed last week that he fled to Cambodia on Feb 6 after a warrant was issued in Vietnam for his role in the protests.
Nguyen Son Thuy, counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy, said he was unaware of any such protests and declined further comment.
Lim Met, a 55-year-old member of the Patriotic Alliance for Khmer Kampuchea Krom, said by telephone that he crossed the border in Takeo’s Kiri Vong district at 11 am Monday.
He said he fled Soc Trang province because he feared arrest, but also because there was not enough food there. He said he hopes to now make a better living working as a manual laborer in Cambodia.
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was unaware of the reported protests, but said Khmer Krom who are demanding greater rights in Vietnam can stay in Cambodia.
“If they demand greater rights they can stay,” he said. “The government is helping them but we don’t beat the drum.”
But Khieu Kanharith added that members of terrorist or armed groups would not be allowed to stay.
Khmer Krom have pagodas in southern Vietnam and are now being given greater human rights by Vietnamese authorities, Khieu Kanharith said.
Small Khmer Krom groups that want to liberate Kampuchea Krom are causing the Vietnamese government to put pressure on the Khmer Krom, he said.