Khmer Krom Community Calls Off Protest

After spending all day Monday protesting at the Vietnamese Embassy to demand their complaint regarding comments made by a Vietnamese diplomat be directly accepted by the embassy, Khmer Krom monks and supporters Tuesday settled for having a City Hall representative be the messenger.

Thousands continued their march Tuesday morning to the Vietnamese Embassy in protest of comments made in June by embassy spokesman Tran Van Thong that the provinces of Kampuchea Krom belonged to Vietnam long before France officially ceded them in 1949.

Outside the Vietnamese Embassy, protesters burned paper Vietnamese flags and photographs of former Vietnamese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

Sung Sarith, one of the protesters, shouted through a loudspeaker: “Kampuchea Krom land is for who? It’s Cambodian so yuon government must apologize.”

At about 12:40 p.m., Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community and a member of the opposition CNRP’s standing committee, went to deliver the petition.

But the person who emerged from the embassy was City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.

“We really wanted [a representative] of the Vietnamese Embassy to come out and get the petition but we know that yuon are stubborn and we don’t want any violence,” Mr. Setha said, using a pejorative term for Vietnamese people.

Mr. Dimanche promised to take the petition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will discuss the matter with its Vietnamese counterpart.

The petition handover followed a meeting earlier that day between the Khmer Krom community, City Hall and the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students (FCIS), which organized the protest, on how to resolve the situation.

“We have set a deadline with authorities of two weeks,” Mr. Setha said. “If there is no resolution, we will continue to protest.”

The provinces in Kampuchea Krom, or Southern Cambodia, which includes modern-day Ho Chi Minh City, were lost to Vietnamese control before France colonized the region in the middle of the 19th century.

Mao Pises, president of the FCIS, said the group had “been soft with the government.” But, he said, their kindness would last only so long.

“We have set a deadline of two weeks.”

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