Hundreds of protesters descended on the Vietnamese Embassy yesterday to again ask for a public apology from a spokesman who said in June that the former Kampuchea Krom provinces had belonged to Vietnam long before being officially handed over by the French in 1949.
They had given the embassy a two-week deadline to respond to petitions handed late last month to the Foreign Ministry, which was in turn meant to deliver them to the Vietnamese, but had received no reply, organisers said.
The demonstration was the largest of several planned protests in the capital yesterday, though villagers from Kratie’s Snuol district who had planned to march on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to ask for a resolution to a long-standing land dispute delayed their plans and joined the Kampuchea Krom march instead.
Separately, villagers affected by an ongoing Asian Development Bank-funded project to rehabilitate the country’s railways protested outside the ADB yesterday morning. They asked for the disclosure of plans detailing what will happen to families who live in the vicinity of the railway but not close enough to have already been resettled.
Beginning at Freedom Park, where multiple public gatherings have been violently suppressed this year, the Kampuchea Krom protest marched to the foreign ministry and numerous ASEAN member states’ embassies yesterday morning before finally ending at the Vietnamese Embassy in the afternoon.
While previous protests over the issue have turned violent, police blocked roads around the embassy and tolerated the demonstration.
Thach Setha, executive director of the Kampuchea Krom Community Organisation and an opposition party official, said demonstrators were upset that Vietnam was ignoring their calls for an apology.
“The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Vietnam did not reply, so it means that Vietnam is looking down on Cambodia since Vietnam could not even accept a petition,” he said.
Setha warned that demonstrations would continue if no apology was forthcoming and that his group would also call for a boycott of Vietnamese products.
Long Visalo, a secretary of state at Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, received more petitions on behalf of the government yesterday that he promised to again forward to the Vietnamese Embassy.
Trung Van Thong, the embassy spokesman who made the comments in question, could not be reached.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH