A planned march to the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh by some 2,000 supporters of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom community was called off Friday due to security concerns after a refusal by Phnom Penh Municipality to approve the demonstration.
Marking the 55th anniversary of a treaty signed by French colonial authorities that officially ceded the Mekong delta region to Vietnam, a symbolic 1,949 Buddhist monks gathered at Wat Botum to commemorate the loss of the territory that was once part of Cambodia.
“We always claim that Kampuchea Krom is our territory,” opposition party Senator Thach Setha told the assembled crowd.
“We have appealed to the French government to cancel the rule made in 1949,” said Thach Setha, who is also executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community who organized the commemoration.
Thach Setha said the march to the Vietnamese Embassy was abandoned because city hall had not given permission, and the marchers could face “problems.”
Funcinpec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh attended the commemoration on behalf of the royalist party and expressed his support for the establishment of branches of the Khmer Krom Community NGO in southern Vietnam to cater to the large population of ethnic Khmers there.
Thach Setha had hoped to deliver a request to the embassy seeking admittance to Vietnam so his organization could establish offices to promote Khmer traditions and culture, which he said were being elbowed out by the Vietnamese education system.
“In the school programs, the Vietnamese authorities do not talk about Khmer tradition and culture. The programs are all about Vietnamese behavior,” Thach Setha said.
Nguyen Thanh Duc, Vietnamese Embassy press attache, said on Friday that the embassy would not receive any requests from Khmer Krom groups in Phnom Penh as such business should be directed to Vietnam’s foreign ministry in Hanoi.
“Everything has to go through the relevant authorities of the two governments,” he said.
Nguyen Thanh Duc also said that Khmer Krom community’s request to be allowed to travel without passports to southern Vietnam to deliver Khmer-language religious books would not be granted. The books would be allowed into Vietnam, but a member of the Khmer Krom community in Vietnam must travel to Cambodia to take collect them, he said.