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Vietnam faces call to respect Khmer Krom

Vietnam faces call to respect Khmer Krom

THE opposition Sam Rainsy Party has called on the Vietnamese government to guarantee freedom of expression and religion for the Khmer Krom, after a Vietnamese official hailed Cambodia’s cooperation in cracking down on antigovernment activities on the two countries’ border.
In a statement Friday, the SRP wrote that the Khmer Krom, as Vietnam’s ethnic Khmer minority is known, should be recognised as Cambodian citizens with freedom of expression and association guaranteed under the Constitution.

“The Kingdom’s parliamentarians ... have supported the KKK’s appeal to the Vietnamese government to respect their rights and religious beliefs,” the statement said.

The statement followed comments last week by Vietnamese Vice Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang, who praised Cambodia’s cooperation in halting antigovernment “plots”, including actions by Khmer Krom activists.

Speaking to around 200 government officials in Phnom Penh last week, he said joint operations had led to the arrest of one person for illegal possession of weapons and three others for anti-Vietnamese leafleting in the border area.

Rights groups have long said that Khmer Krom face a range of restrictions imposed by local authorities. Last year, Human Rights Watch documented the “severe and often shrouded methods” used to stifle dissent and demands for religious freedom.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, seven local Khmer Krom organisations said Cambodia should adhere to its democratic principles rather than side with Vietnam’s communist leaders.

“The [Khmer Krom] have no intention to topple Hanoi’s government,” the statement said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he had received the SRP’s statement, but that the government treated all Khmer Krom in Cambodia as citizens.

“They must not be concerned. We love them as citizens and we love them as Khmers love Khmers,” he said. He noted that Khmer Krom held key positions in government.

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