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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Krom mourn loss of land

Khmer Krom mourn loss of land

Khmer Krom mourn loss of land

About 8000 Khmer Krom in Cambodia are expected to attend a ceremony in Phnom

Penh on June 4 to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the French colonial

government's transfer of Kampuchea Krom from Cambodia to Vietnam.

"We

have lost our land for 55 years until now," said Kim Vann Chheng, President of

the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Coordination Committee. He said Khmer Krom people were

gathering to argue for the rights and freedom of Khmer Krom living in

Vietnam.

In June 2003, Thach Setha, senator and executive director of the

Khmer Kampuchea Krom community in Phnom Penh, wrote a letter to King Norodom

Sihanouk, Prime Minister Hun Sen, and France's President Jacques Chirac

petitioning them to cancel the French colonial law 49-733 signed on June 4,

1949, which gave the land of Cochinchine to Vietnam.

The June 4

commemoration will also be the focus of fund-raising for a second volume of

songs about Kampuchea Krom and a film. The CD and cassettes are expected to cost

$6,000 and the film $54,000.

A first volume of 14 songs was issued in

February and produced in the United States for $3,500; Khmer Kampuchea Krom

living in Australia, America, and Canada raised the money to produce it. Three

thousand CDs and 2,000 tape cassettes were distributed free to the public and

sent abroad.

The songs are about the history of Khmer Kampuchea Krom;

about Vietnamese soldiers and police who invaded the land, and the suffering

Khmer Kampuchea Krom. The second volume will have more songs than the first.

Setha said: "After we produced the first volume of songs, we got strong

support from the public, especially students and monks. The next volume and a

film will be quite difficult because of the higher cost, so now we are looking

for sponsors."

Vann Chheng said: "It is the history of Khmer Kampuchea

Krom; before we are unable to produce the songs, now we have chance. Khmer

Kampuchea Krom living in Vietnam never get any support from the local

authority."

Vann Chheng said the copies of the first CD sent to Khmer

Kampuchea Krom in Vietnam were seized by the Vietnamese

authorities.

Chuch Phoeun, under-secretary of state at the Cults and Fine

Arts Ministry, said every writer has the right to produce songs or films. If

they caused problems that involved national political issues they were

responsible; they could not expect the ministry to come to the

rescue.

Seng Sothy, 32, who lives in Phnom Penh, got a cassette of the

first volume of songs and said they celebrated Khmer Krom

heroes.

Kampuchea Krom, which means "Lower Cambodia", comprises 67,000

square kilometers of territory once historically part of the Khmer empire but

which over the centuries has been absorbed into Vietnam.

Vann Chheng

said an unofficial census in 1998 showed there were about 12 million Khmer

Kampuchea Krom people living in Vietnam, more than one million had moved to

Cambodia and about 70,000 to 80,000 had gone to other countries.

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