ABOUT 1,000 monks and other demonstrators gathered at Wat Sammaki Raingsey in Meanchey district on Friday to participate in a ceremony marking the 61st anniversary of a French colonial ruling that formally ceded Cambodian territories in the Mekong Delta region to Vietnam.
The event’s organiser, however, complained afterwards about the size and location of the venue, and vowed to protest if he is not allowed to hold a similar ceremony in front of Wat Botum next year.
Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, had initially sought permission to hold the ceremony – which included blessings, speeches and offerings to monks – at Wat Botum, but Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema rejected this plan in a letter dated May 21, citing concerns about “security and public order”.
Proposals to hold the ceremony at Chaktomuk Theatre and Olympic Stadium were rejected, respectively, by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Thach Setha said.
Wat Sammaki Raingsey is a centre for ethnic Khmer monks and activists from southern Vietnam.
“This year, we wanted a bigger place, but authorities still banned us,” Thach Setha said Friday. “When we respect the law and ask permission, they reject our request. So I announce that I and the Khmer Krom people will protest if we do not receive permission again.”
Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said plans to hold the ceremony at Wat Botum had been rejected because multiple Khmer Krom groups had requested to hold ceremonies there on June 4.
“So the authorities didn’t give permission to any. We asked them to celebrate at their own offices,” he said.
Officials at the Culture and Education ministries with knowledge of the requests submitted by Thach Setha could not be reached.