Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy yesterday called on residents in the northeast provinces to defend their land lest the area be turned into a Vietnamese “colony”.
Rainsy’s comments were quickly condemned by both the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments.
Speaking to hundreds of people in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri provinces yesterday as part of a wide-ranging tour to meet supporters, Rainsy said the government has granted thousands of hectares of land to private companies that are Khmer in name only and really belong to Vietnam.
In rhetoric that is now familiar, the opposition leader warned that the companies will allow floods of Vietnamese people into the region, effectively colonising the land.
“This is not immigration. Immigration is different from colonialism. An immigrant is a foreigner who enters each country to find an occasion to live for himself. But a colonist is not a normal immigrant, a colonist does not go back. A colonist serves a political plan to take the neighbouring territory,” Rainsy said.
He added that the Vietnamese can then vote to secede from Cambodia and become part of Vietnam. He also urged people to defend their forests, fields and farms, but did not specify the means.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Rainsy misunderstood the nature of investment. Cambodia does not discriminate against any country that wants to invest in the country, he said, and moreover, Cambodia will not be controlled by another country.
“We do not let our country be a slave of any country,” he said. “Excellency Sam Rainsy’s language is just an allegation for political popularity,” Siphan said.
Tran Van Thong, a Vietnamese Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh, said Rainsy’s accusation is groundless.
“Vietnamese companies that invest in Cambodia have respected Cambodian law, international law and Vietnamese law. So for his accusation, I don’t know about his idea. Vietnam does not have this idea, [Vietnam] has the idea of friendship and cooperation,” he said.