Khmer Krom Groups Vying for Ceremony Site

Competition between two Khmer Krom organizations might lead to the cancellation of annual ceremonies to mark the loss of the Kampuchea Krom region to Viet­nam, officials said Tuesday.

June 4 will mark 59 years since a French colonial-era law transferred the southern region known as Cochin China from Cambodian to Vietnamese administration.

The region is home to a Khmer Krom ethnic minority population that activists say suffers alienation and discrimination, a claim Vietna­mese authorities deny.

In a letter dated Tuesday, Thach Setha, executive director of the opposition-affiliated Khmer Kam­puchea Krom Community and a member of the SRP board of directors, wrote to Phnom Penh Gover­nor Kep Chuktema asking for permission to hold a 3,000-person ceremony in the park in front of Wat Botum, the traditional site for the annual ceremony.

Thach Setha said plans by the CPP-affiliated Khmer Kampuchea Krom Coordi­nation Committee to hold its own ceremony at the site on the same day were an attempt by the ruling party to divide the Khmer Krom community and silence re­membrance of the past.

KKKCC members would still be welcome at any KKKC ceremony, Thach Setha said.

“It is in our culture that we always hold a ceremony every year. City Hall will decide,” he said.

Kim Van Chheng, executive director of the breakaway KKKCC, claimed Tuesday that Thach Setha’s group was seeking to hold an SRP event. He said his planned 7,000-person event would be independent of any political party, including the CPP, though KKKC members would not be welcome.

“We are afraid that the SRP would seek political gains from the ceremony,” Kim Van Chheng said.

Kep Chuktema said he had not yet seen the requests from either group, but that without a compromise the event would be canceled.

“They should talk to compromise, otherwise City Hall will not grant permission,” he said. “They cannot use public space to fight.”

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