A five-day protest aimed at demanding an apology from Vietnam for comments made by a former embassy spokesman wrapped up yesterday. But while the rallies brought petitions, flag-burning and even an alleged death threat, it seemed to bring demonstrators no closer to their goal.
This week’s protests are just the latest action to be taken since ex-spokesman Trung Van Thong said in early June that the former Kampuchea Krom provinces in the Mekong Delta belonged to Vietnam long before being officially ceded by colonial power France in 1949.
Yesterday, hundreds of protesters gathered in Freedom Park and marched along the streets, handing out petitions calling for a boycott of Vietnamese products. Outside of the Vietnamese Embassy, demonstrators set fire to flags in what they said was a show of anger at the lack of apology.
One of the protesters, Roeun Nen, said she was disappointed that the days of action had brought no tangible result.
“I will continue protesting until an official apology is made publicly,” she said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the protests had done nothing in fracturing the relationship with Vietnam.
But Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, said that despite not receiving an apology or government support, the protests had been a success as they had avoided violence and attracted more participants.
“Cambodians now dare to do something against the yuon government to ask them to apologise,” he said, using a word for Vietnamese often seen as derogatory.
Setha also accepted responsibility for the flag burning.
Earlier in the day, Setha said he received an anonymous phone call from someone speaking Vietnamese who threatened to kill him if he did not stop protesting.
But he vowed to continue leading demonstrations until Vietnam apologised.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that while authorities had taken a tolerant approach to the five-day demonstration, the activities of those involved had been closely monitored.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY