Thursday, July 10, 2014

Khmer Krom drop call for apology

Police clash with Khmer Krom supporters during a demonstration in front of the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Vireak Mai

The Phnom Penh Post - Thu, 10 July 2014
Mom Kunthear

Khmer Krom youth and other activists backed down yesterday on their demand that a diplomat apologise for saying the former Kampuchea Krom provinces belonged to Vietnam long before France’s official transfer of the land in 1949, but said they will keep protesting until the “true history” is recognised.

At a press conference yesterday morning, Oeur Narit, president of Youth for Peace, said that Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trung Van Thong was no longer expected to formally apologise for the remarks he made in an interview with Radio Free Asia last month.

“In order to respect each other and the friendship of our neighbouring countries, we want to drop our demand for an apology from [Van Thong] . . . but we want Vietnam to accept that Khmer Krom land belonged to Cambodia for a long time,” he said.

Ren Chanrith, a coordinator with Independent Youth, said the groups would file petitions with seven embassies next Wednesday to pressure Vietnam into giving this recognition.

“We will tell those embassies, especially France, the US, Russia, China and England, about the rights abuses from the Vietnamese government to the Khmer Krom people, and we will urge them to put pressure on the Vietnamese government to respect Khmer Krom rights and freedom,” he said.

Another youth, Phou Tita, called on Vietnam to stop “defacing” Cambodian history, adding that if it continues to do so, “it is a thief”.

But Van Thong told the <>Post that he was “not interested” in their requests.

The press conference came a day after about 200 members and supporters of several Khmer Krom organisations gathered outside the Vietnamese Embassy to protest against Van Thong’s comments.

Several protesters and at least one security guard were injured in clashes during the protest. Afterwards, the embassy released a sharply worded statement saying that demonstrators interfered with Vietnam’s sovereignty and internal affairs.

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