Opposition leaders brought politics to the forefront of a ceremony to mark yesterday’s anniversary of France’s official transfer of the former Kampuchea Krom provinces to Vietnam in 1949.
Speaking to a crowd of hundreds of monks, Khmer Krom and Khmer attendees at Samaki Rainsey pagoda in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy leader Kem Sokha lambasted the ruling Cambodian People’s Party for operating under the thumb of Vietnam.
“If the CNRP led the country, it would propose a law … to make June 4 a national holiday.… We would [also] like to allow Khmer Kampuchea Krom to go in and out of the country without using passports,” he said.
CNRP leader Sam Rainsy said the CPP was facilitating the loss of more Cambodian territory through economic land concessions (ELCs).
“The government of [Prime Minister] Hun Sen grants ELCs … to pave the way for yuon to swallow the current Cambodian territory,” he said, using a term considered by some to be derogatory to Vietnamese.
San Sang, a Khmer Krom representative, said the effects of the 1949 anniversary are still felt in modern-day life.
“In Vietnam, we have been regarded as Cambodian Vietnamese, but in current [Cambodia], the government does not recognise us. They say they cannot make … IDs or passports for us, because we do not have a clear identity and cannot speak Khmer clearly.”
On Monday, City Hall scaled back plans for the anniversary, prohibiting a public forum for fear it would be used as a platform for racial hate speech.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told the Post that members of the CPP did not attend yesterday’s event because, while they “respect the spirit of the Kampuchea Krom as … lost land”, they also “respect the rule of law and nonviolence”.
Royal representative Sisowath Pong Neary Monypong said that, for her, the anniversary was not about politics.
“I am not involved in politics; I came here to offer food to the monks, and I am also a Khmer Krom.”