The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation demanded on Wednesday a separate governing system for ethnic minority Khmer in southern Vietnam.
The federation of four organizations fighting for the rights of Khmer Krom minority members in Vietnam made the demand at a news conference in the Samaki Raingsey pagoda in Phnom Penh where some 70 Khmer Krom monks and civilians from Vietnam have been staying since entering Cambodia between April and July.
“We do not want to take back the land but we are asking for our right to govern,” Tang Sarah, a representative of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, said at the news conference.
He accused Vietnamese authorities of “controlling” the Khmer Krom minority.
“We want to have the right to make decisions and to have our own legislative body, police and courts,” he added.
The federation said it had not yet decided on whether the self-governing Khmer Krom should have their own independent country or a state within Vietnam.
Yeang Vanna, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Union of Buddhist Students, said he supported the idea of a state separated from Vietnam.
“Whether it is possible or not to ask for an independent state [from Vietnam], is another story but we will keep on struggling,” Yeang Vanna said, while noting that tiny East Timor was capable of gaining independence from Indonesia.
Tang Sarah also called on the Cambodian government to officially recognize all Khmer Krom people who have “escaped from Vietnam” as Cambodian citizens.
Ly Quang Bich, political counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy, declined to comment Wednesday.