Gov’t, Vietnam Delegates Talk Policy About Ethnic Minorities

A visiting Vietnamese delegation wrapped up meetings with senior government officials in Phnom Penh on Sunday following a week of talks concerning Cambodia’s eth­nic minorities, officials said.

During the visit, which began Dec 16 and ended Sunday, the Viet­namese National Assembly’s Eth­nic Minority Council, chaired by Ksor Phuoc, met with Interior Min­ister Sar Kheng and National As­sembly President Heng Samrin, said Koam Kosal, an adviser to Heng Samrin.

Heng Samrin told the delegation that Cambodia hopes to learn more about Vietnam’s successful handling of its ethnic minorities, Koam Kosal said.

“Ksor Phuoc said the conditions of ethnic minorities in Viet­nam are better than before,” Koam Kosal said. “The situation of ethnic mi­nor­ities in Cambodia is similar to the situation in Viet­nam,” he added.

Asked if both countries discussed the flight of Montagnard ethnic minority asylum seekers from Vietnam’s Central Highlands to northeastern Cambodia, or the grievances of ethnic Khmers in southern Vietnam, Koam Kosal said, “no.”

Mass protests by ethnic minorities seeking land rights and religious freedom broke out in 2001 and 2004 in the Central Highlands and were followed by the flight of thousands of Montagnards to Cambodia, the majority of whom were granted asylum by the UN and resettled overseas.

In October, the European Parlia­ment issued a resolution calling on Vietnam to put an end to the “current systematic violation of democracy and human rights,” with a particular mention regarding the iss­ues facing ethnic Khmers.

Vietnam Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said by telephone Monday that the visiting delegation now plans to visit the northern pro­vinces of Cambodia, in­clud­ing the provinces of Siem Reap and Pursat.

He declined to comment as to why neither the Montagnards nor the Khmer Krom were discussed during the visit.

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