Kampuchea Krom covers an area of 89,000 square kilometres in southern Vietnam. The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Foundation claims eight million ethnic Khmers live in the region, facing cultural and religious persecution by the Vietnamese government.
Despite government restrictions on religious practices, Khmers in
southern Vietnam take part in the traditional Cambodian festival
THOUSANDS of ethnic Khmers known as Khmer Krom turned out Tuesday and Wednesday to celebrate the annual Water and Moon Festival in southern Vietnam, witnessing two days of dragon boat races and other festivities.
Thirty dragon boats competed for prizes in the event, which was chaired by the Vietnamese provincial governor and the head Buddhist monk, according to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association.
Yoeun Sin, head of the Khmer Krom Monks' Association, said up to a million Khmer Krom from across the Mekong Delta attended the Water Festival celebrations in Vietnam's Soc Trang province - known in Khmer as Khleang.
In kampuchea krom, we can't implement everything we would wish for.
"Many monks came to support the dragon boats from each province," said Yoeun Sin, adding that the celebration was vital to preserve Khmer culture inside Vietnam.
"We have to organise the Water Festival every year to remember our traditions and cultural practices," he said.
Yoeun Sin added that the Khmer Krom boat races, which were held at a local dike, lacked the support of concurrent events inside Cambodia.
"There are no big sponsors here like in Phnom Penh," he said. "But Kampuchea Krom monks are following their boats and have supported them with food and money. The special thing [here] is that monks have freedom to support and watch the boat races freely."
Preserving Khmer culture
Hul Pirom, 26, a Khmer Krom student at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, said that cultural practices - including the celebration of the festival - were limited by the Vietnamese government and less lavish than the national festival organised in Preah Vihear.
"I am very proud of the government for an exciting celebration of the Water Festival," he said. "In Kampuchea Krom, we can't implement everything we would wish for," he added.
Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Community, said the festival was a way for the Khmer minority in southern Vietnam to resist government oppression.
"Every family in Kampuchea Krom celebrates the Water Festival to remember Khmer heroes and military commanders who once protected the territory," he said. "The special meaning of the festival is to demand freedom."