A Khmer Krom advocacy association has requested that the government make June 4 a national day of mourning so citizens nationwide can take a day off work and express their regret at France ceding Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam on that day in 1949.
However, a government spokesman said the loss of the territory was a historical matter.
The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation commemorated the 70th anniversary of the loss of Khmer Krom land on Tuesday at a private venue in Kouk Khleang commune’s Kouk Khleang village in the capital’s Sen Sok district, after Phnom Penh Municipal Hall had prohibited the celebration being marked at Freedom Park and Samaki Rainsy pagoda.
According to an organiser, the ceremony was attended by 1,949 monks – along with a representative of the King and hundreds of members of the public – to make a dedication to the ancestors who sacrificed their lives to preserve the traditional Khmer Krom culture, religion and literature.
But The Post reporter who covered the event said that – although King Norodom Sihamoni sent a representative to attend – not many people were present as it was held annually and there were no government officials in attendance.
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation president Thach Setha said a remembrance day should be marked with a national holiday like Victory over Genocide Day on January 7 and National Day of Remembrance on May 20.
Setha said that June 4, 1949, was a historic event which every Cambodian should be aware of and they should remember the loss of their land. He said it was not a political matter.
“Today is the day we mark the anniversary and make a dedication to the souls of all strugglers and mark our gratitude to all the heroes. We are devout Buddhist followers, so we only invite monks to perform the dedication."
“Some people fail to realise the gratitude we owe to those heroes,” Setha said to the participants on Tuesday.
He said the dedication was for those who had struggled and those who had laid down their lives to preserve the religion and traditional customs of the Khmer Krom in Kampuchea Krom, and the passing away of many other monks – like Oknha Son Kuy, who was beheaded by the Vietnamese.
Setha said during the period of struggle against Vietnam, which had attempted to eliminate the Khmer Krom, many Kampuchea Krom residents and monks suffered the cruellest injustices at the hands of the Vietnamese authorities.
Many people were imprisoned, tortured or killed, he said, if they dared to express a sense of patriotism in order to safeguard Khmer traditions and customs.
He said that even though 70 years had passed, the Khmer Krom still considered the land as their own and were thoroughly committed to protecting their culture.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan responded to Setha’s remarks by saying the government had only complied with what was stipulated in the constitution, which clearly defines Cambodia’s borders.
He said the government implements policies of peace, meaning that it does not take revenge on any country, but treats them with respect and attempts to solve the problems of the present day.
Siphan said the government considered the loss Kampuchea Krom a historical matter because it had happened long before the current government and it is the government’s obligation to comply with the constitution.
“Everyone feels remorse, but we must not take that remorse and fight with neighbouring countries. We let the activists say what they want, that is their own matter,” he said.