The Phnom Penh Municipality has denied permission to the Kampuchea Krom Community to demonstrate against this morning’s scheduled arrival of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, an official with the organization said.
Up to one thousand people had been hoping to protest against the three-day visit, but the demonstration will now have to be held in the organization’s Russei Keo district office rather than on the streets of the capital, Thach Setha, an opposition senator and the community’s executive director, said Friday.
“Authorities do not allow us, saying they are concerned about public order, security and national dignity,” he said, adding that municipal officials proposed on Friday at a City Hall meeting that the organization protest at their office instead.
“We had better accept this request instead of doing nothing,” Thach Setha said.
The territory known as Kampuchea Krom, once part of Cambodia, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949. Khmer Krom organizations have long accused Vietnam of mistreating ethnic Khmers in the region. The community had originally hoped to demonstrate along Russian Boulevard as Phan Van Khai was driven from Phnom Penh International Airport, and then to deliver a petition to the Vietnamese Embassy, calling for better human rights and freedom for ethnic Khmers in southern Vietnam.
Thach Setha said the organization still has permission to deliver the petition.
Vietnamese Embassy officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday, but Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said he gave the organization permission to protest inside their office.
“The cooperation between Cambodia and Vietnam is very good. We should not allow them to do anything” that would affect relations between the two countries, he said.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)