The Khmer ethnic minority living in southern Vietnam is now able to watch
television in their own language. The Vietnamese government recently gave
permission for a new broadcasting schedule that goes out on the country's VTV5
cable TV channel, although only after midnight.
Thach Reng, a Khmer Krom
and former member of parliament for the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, said
the broadcasts began a few months back and marked the first time ethnic Khmer
Krom had the right to flaunt their own identity.
"It is a success for the
Khmer Krom people who have fought for years to retain their identity," said
Reng. "The Vietnamese government seems now to have given them more freedom.
These broadcasts mean Khmer Krom are now able to preserve their identities and
Many Cambodians consider southern Vietnam part of Cambodia,
despite the fact that the country lost control of the area in the 1700s. South
Vietnam is still known by many Cambodians as Kampuchea Krom (southern
However, Reng criticized the fact that the station only
broadcasts entertainment shows and does not allow news. Among the approved
topics are the development of the Khmer Krom community, folk dancing, Khmer
karaoke, traditional music and children's programs.
"The Khmer Krom
should have the freedom of expression to do as much as they can," he said.
Tia Then, who is also Khmer Krom and a Phnom Penh-based magazine
publisher, said the content of the shows smacked of Vietnamese government
"The way I see it, Vietnam is afraid of the criticisms it has
received over human rights, so it wants the world to see that it sticks to a
multi-cultural policy," he said.
One show that aired recently had a
traditional band dressed in Khmer costume playing Khmer instruments. However the
song, which was Khmer, was accompanied by a Vietnamese melody lauding the
communist party. Other songs appealed to Khmer Krom "who have fled" (to
Cambodia) to return home.
"We want to study Khmer history, not just the
history of grandpa Ho [Chi Minh]," said Then. "We want to know where we come
from so that we can better create a future for ourselves."