Lym Heng, a coffee shop owner in Prampi Makara district, is not Vietnamese, but most of the customers sitting down to watch a Hong Kong movie at his tables are.
Of the dozen men watching the film dubbed into Vietnamese, few wished to talk about Sunday’s vandalism of the Cambodia-Vietnam Liberation Monument during an opposition rally.
“Most people don’t want to express their opinion because they’re afraid,” Lym Heng said, adding that he saw nothing wrong with the destruction himself. “They’re just expressing their opinion.”
Still, some Vietnamese were willing to speak.
“I’m not really angry about it,” said Tiam Kimsan, a 33-year-old restaurant worker. “But it will harm relations between Cambodia and Vietnam.
“Other people I know are not angry about it either. Let them do whatever they want. I only care about business,” he said.
Others interviewed also said they just wanted to go about the business of making money and didn’t wish to talk about politics. Most wouldn’t give an interview even when anonymity was promised.
“I know about that demonstration, but I don’t want to talk about politics,” said a 32-year-old Vietnamese moto-taxi driver.
He said many Vietnamese he knew were afraid after the recent demonstrations, where politicians have been using harsh racial insults.
Vieng Thanh Binh, 48, said he didn’t mind giving his name and said that most Cambodians don’t understand the Vietnamese.
“They accuse Vietnamese as being bad people, but among the Vietnamese there are good and bad people just like anyone else,” the construction worker said.
“The vandalism will have a bad effect on Vietnamese-Cambodian relations. The statue doesn’t have anything to do with the demonstration. Why did they destroy it?” he said.
Lam Bin, a 41-year-old construction worker, said he felt saddened by the destruction of the statue.
“If they are angry with some person, they should go to him directly, but don’t fight with the statue, which doesn’t know anything,” Lam Bin said.
“The statue is a symbol of solidarity between our peoples,” he added.
“If we are not friends, we are foes. So why break the statue?”