An SRP senator has called on France to repeal a colonial-era law, which placed a Khmer region of the Mekong delta under Vietnamese control, saying it has alienated a portion of the Khmer population.
In a letter addressed Friday to French Senate President Christian Poncelet, Kong Korm, who was to return from France Monday evening with a multiparty Senate delegation, said the 1949 law ceding the territory should be scrapped.
Poncelet is a member of a French senate group devoted to friendship with Vietnam.
“Since the promulgation of the law […], the territory and population of Khmer origin in Kampuchea Krom, particularly their culture, language, religion, customs, ancestral beliefs find themselves threatened and destroyed little by little,” the letter states.
The 1949 law transferred the southern region known as Cochin-China, which was French territory, to Vietnam.
Kong Korm noted that the law contained a provision calling for it to be reconsidered should the status of Vietnam change, and that Khmer Krom organizations had called for its revocation in 2003.
The French Embassy on Monday referred all questions on the matter back to Cambodian authorities. “Cambodia has been a sovereign, independent country for more than 50 years,” French Embassy First Secretary Fabyene Mansencal said.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said that Kampuchea Krom belongs to Vietnam and was home to a free Khmer population.
“I confirm that this southern part of Vietnam is part of the territory of Vietnam,” he said, adding that Kong Korm’s claims that Khmer Krom suffered under the Vietnamese government were untrue.
“I think this is fabricated information. Khmer people in southern Vietnam have full freedom for their culture, their religion, their language,” he said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that, while the question of ownership of Kampuchea Krom was complex, Cambodia was not seeking its return.