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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Krom protests end for now

Buddhist monks protest at a blockade near the Vietnamese Embassy
Buddhist monks protest at a blockade near the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh yesterday. Eli Meixler

Krom protests end for now

Two days of roadblocks in front of the Vietnamese Embassy by Kampuchea Krom activists ended yesterday after intervention from the Phnom Penh municipality.

Protesters led by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community and the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students had been demanding an official apology from the embassy after a spokesman there said that Kampuchea Krom – a portion of southern Vietnam home to many ethnic Khmer – had belonged to Vietnam “for a very long time”.

While embassy officials never received the demonstrators’ petition calling for the apology, Phnom Penh municipal authorities did, promising to pass it on to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would, in turn, pass it to the Vietnamese government, representatives of the activists and the municipality said.

After two hours of negotiations with leaders from the two organisations, municipality spokesman Long Dimanche accepted the petition from demonstrators in front of the Vietnamese Embassy, before saying: “Please, all of you, stop protesting.”

Mao Pises, head of the Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students, said that authorities had two weeks to secure a response.

“The reply is a public apology in written form to Cambodian people for what their senior official has stated, [which] fakes the history. If there is not a reply, a new big protest will be set up again,” Pises said.

Part of the controversy over the Vietnamese official’s remarks stemmed from the assertion that Kampuchea Krom had been part of Vietnam long before it was officially declared as such by Indochina’s colonial ruler, France, in 1949.

As such, Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community leader Thach Setha yesterday also demanded the French “confirm clearly about giving Kampuchea Krom territory to Vietnam in order to avoid Vietnam faking history again”.

Despite the municipality’s offer, many outside the embassy were still unsatisfied. One small group – later disavowed by organisers – burned a Vietnamese flag and photos of Vietnamese communist icon Ho Chi Minh.

Embassy spokesman Trung Van Thong, who made the comments at the heart of the furore, has said he is “not interested” in the calls for an apology.

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