PM’s Cabinet Refuses Khmer Krom Petition

A cabinet secretary for Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday refused to accept a petition from a Khmer Krom activist group because, he said, it was “not my job.”

Kong Chamroeun, who often emerges from behind closed doors to receive petitions in Wat Botum park, near Mr. Hun Sen’s home, on Wednesday rejected a document asking the government to support the Khmer Krom people, a minority that is marginalized in both Cambodia and Vietnam.

“I cannot receive your petition because the cabinet does not work to solve political issues,” Mr. Chamroeun told Son Chum Chuon, a project director for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association for Human Rights and Development. “It is not my job.”

In recent years, the most vocal Khmer Krom advocacy groups have demanded, as their number one priority, that Vietnam return to Cambodia the area known as Kampuchea Krom, which was officially ceded by colonial France.

The 66th anniversary of that decision is today, however Mr. Chum Chuon said his petition called for less drastic intervention.

“We want the two parties [the CPP and CNRP] to discuss with the government of Vietnam intervention in the discrimination of Khmer Krom people by authorities in both Cambodia and Vietnam,” he said.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community will today hold a ceremony to mark the day France handed the Kampuchea Krom provinces to Vietnam. But, according to its president, CNRP standing committee member Thach Setha, the event will also take a less confrontational approach to recent demonstrations he was involved in, including when Vietnamese flags were burned outside the country’s embassy in Phnom Penh.

“We are not thinking about asking to get the land back yet because our culture of dialogue is still young,” said Mr. Setha, who went on a racist diatribe against the Vietnamese at last year’s ceremony.

Contacted Wednesday, CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith said the opposition party would not make today’s event a priority.

“Some of our CNRP youth will join, but all the lawmakers are busy at the National Assembly,” he said.

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