Khmer Krom to Proceed With March Despite Harsh Warnings

A leader of a march planned in Phnom Penh on Monday to demand an apology from a diplomat who said that Vietnam held the former Kampuchea Krom provinces long before the French ceded them in 1949 vowed Sunday to disregard a government ban.

Phnom Penh City Hall on Friday threatened jail terms of up to 15 years for those taking part in the banned protest, which is being organized by the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students (FCIS) and leaders of the Khmer Krom community.

The group of nationalists dispute Vietnamese Embassy First Counselor Tran Van Thong’s account of his country’s annexation of the onetime Cambodian provinces, which were occupied by the French as the colony of Cochinchina between 1862 and 1949.

FCIS president Mao Pises said that Mr. Thong’s account was intended to obfuscate the history between the two nations.

“We want to show the public and the people so that they can know about our history,” said Mr. Pises. “We will march to hand our petition at the French Embassy at 7 a.m. and then go to the Australian, Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese embassies.”

“If there is any violence or arrests, the government has to take responsibility for their actions since we do not use violence,” he said. “We cannot let Vietnam [distort] our history.”

Separately, King Norodom Sihamoni on Friday held a ceremony for the outgoing Vietnamese Ambassador Ngo Anh Dung. Mr. Dung is being replaced by Deputy Foreign Minister Thach Du, according to the state-run Voice of Vietnam service.

Mr. Du is himself an ethnic Khmer Krom and joined the Vietnamese Communist Party in 1985, according to a database on the website of the Vietnamese National Assembly.

Mr. Thong, the Vietnamese diplomat and embassy spokesman whose comments sparked the protests, on Sunday declined to comment on Mr. Du’s appointment or this morning’s protest.

The former Kampuchea Krom provinces, which include modern-day Ho Chi Minh City, were lost to Vietnamese control in the centuries that preceded the arrival of the French colonialists.

Increased migration from ethnic Vietnamese fleeing wars in the north and internal disputes within Cambodia led to authority over the area to be both seized and assumed by the Vietnamese.

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