Phnom Penh City Hall on Monday banned Wat Samakki Raingsey from hosting a public forum on Wednesday to mark the 65th anniversary of the official granting of Kampuchea Krom to the State of Vietnam.
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community (KKKC), which advocates for the ethnic minority from what is now southern Vietnam, had planned to have legal experts and rights groups speak at the forum. But the municipality shot down the plans, citing fears of racial incitement.
“The Khmer Kampuchea Krom issue is very sensitive. If we are not able to manage the topic of the discussion, the forum will be used to incite hatred against a neighboring country or race,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said after a meeting with Tach Setha, president of the KKKC.
“Therefore, we cannot allow it.”
A Buddhist ceremony will still take place at Wat Samakki Raingsey, whose monk population is about 60 percent ethnic Khmer Krom, but City Hall has capped attendance at 1,000 and warned that the ceremony must remain inside the pagoda grounds and not evolve into a demonstration.
City Hall has also sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior requesting its support for the ban, Mr. Dimanche said.
Khmer Krom in Vietnam face persecution and suppression, while those who return to Cambodia are also often treated as outsiders.
Samakki Raingsey pagoda has in the past often been used by antigovernment voices—and particularly Khmer Krom—as a rallying point and safe haven, but Mr. Setha said Monday that any issues raised at the public forum would have been legitimate issues for discussion.
“We had invited Sok Sam Oeun to talk about the law and Pung Chhiv Kek to talk about the rights of Khmer Krom,” said Mr. Setha, who is also a member of the CNRP standing committee.
Mr. Sam Oeun, a lawyer and head of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said that he was planning to deliver a speech on the rights of Khmer Krom in Cambodia under the country’s Constitution and laws.