Khmer Krom Protests Conclude With Another Ultimatum

Nationalist protesters demanding an apology for controversial comments made by a Vietnamese diplomat regarding the annexing of Kampuchea Krom 65 years ago called off their demonstration on its third day Wednesday, promising to return to the streets if the embassy continues to ignore their demand.

Hundreds of monks and laymen —many brandishing Cambodian and Kampuchea Krom flags—had staked out the Vietnamese Embassy for three days over the comments of embassy spokesman Tran Van Thong in June.

On Tuesday, a monk, joined by a few protesters, burned a Vietnamese flag and pledged to burn 50 more, but the protest ended peacefully Wednesday with Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, calling for the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam to work together to resolve the dispute.

“We will let our government work with the yuon government for between one and two weeks,” Mr. Setha said, using an often-pejorative term for Vietnamese. “If there is no solution, we will protest again and we will not pull back.”

In July, Mr. Setha, a member of the opposition CNRP’s standing committee, also led a three-day protest at the Vietnamese Embassy and gave the government two weeks to find a solution.

A petition signed by 13 youth groups to urge foreign governments to pressure Vietnam into an apology was accepted by the embassies of numerous countries over the two three-day protests.

Seung Hai, the monk who led the burning of the flag on Tuesday, said at the embassy Wednesday morning that he would “burn 50 more at 3 p.m.” However, by lunchtime, he had disappeared from the scene.

“When he burned the flag he was not afraid but then he heard he would be arrested and went to a safe place,” said Thach Ha Sam Ang, acting chief monk at Phnom Penh’s Wat Sammaki Raingsey.

At about 8 a.m., a skirmish broke out at the protest site when some monks singled out a man and yelled “yuon spy, yuon spy,” sending a group of angry protesters to chase him down.

The man, who monks claimed had been following Seung Hai, was bundled onto a motorbike and taken away unscathed.

Police could not be reached to confirm whether Seung Hai was wanted for arrest. City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said he could not confirm the claims.

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