Despite strong words from its leader in the US, the newly emergent Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front has no military capability in Cambodia and is not a danger to Vietnam, senior defense officials said Wednesday.
The KKNLF’s declared aim to liberate southern Vietnam and establish a state for the ethnic Khmer population there has sparked a police and military investigation in Cambodia.
But senior military officials said the group is not a real security threat, though the government will be vigilant.
“They can do nothing,” a Cambodian general said. “But if we do nothing, they could do something,” he said.
A committee of high-ranking police and military officials is investigating the KKNLF’s support base in Cambodia and the activities of the group’s US-based leader—royalist parliamentarian Thach Sang, the general said.
National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh has received a report containing evidence against Thach Sang and it was the Assembly’s task to take action, the general said.
Co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath said Funcinpec—of which Prince Ranariddh is also president—has not yet discussed Thach Sang and dismissed the KKNLF’s stated plans to liberate the Mekong Delta, known to many Khmers as Kampuchea Krom.
“I wouldn’t consider them at all,” said Prince Sirirath. “They may be outspoken but they are not an armed resistance, just a political resistance. I don’t think we have to fear.”
But Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Duy Hung said the group is a serious issue, as are accusations ethnic Khmers are mistreated in Vietnam.
Hanoi reacted angrily last month to claims it abused ethnic Khmers. The allegations were made following a demonstration in Phnom Penh to mark the 53rd anniversary of the official ceding of the Mekong Delta region to Vietnam by the then-French colonial government.
“This is some kind of slander. If you look at the reality it is not like that,” Nguyen Duy Hung said.
A US diplomat said Wednesday the US embassy in Phnom Penh has asked the Ministry of Interior for information—additional to media reports—on the liberation front’s activities in Cambodia.
Depending on such information the US would be “prepared to respond,” the diplomat said.
Cambodia and the US previously cooperated to investigate the US-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters, an anti-government group that claimed responsibility for a November 2001 attack in Phnom Penh during which several people were killed.