Jun 04, 2014

Khmer Krom: Cambodian Authorities Forbid Public Forum During Commemoration

The Cambodian authorities have refused to grant permission to hold a public forum to commemorate the 65th anniversary of France recognising the Kampuchea Krom provinces as part of Vietnam. Minorities in Cambodia face persecution, and the government does not adequately support them. A ceremony at the Samaki Rainsey pagoda will take play to commemorate the anniversary.

Below is an article published by the Phnom Penh Post

Plans to commemorate 65 years since France formerly recognised Kampuchea Krom provinces as part of Vietnam were scaled back by the City Hall on Monday June 2 [2014]. Representatives of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community (KKKC) were told that plans to hold a public forum on Wednesday [4 June 2014] had been rejected, while approval was granted for a ceremony at Samaki Rainsey pagoda in Meanchey district.

“We will not allow them to hold the public forum, because we know that if we cannot control it well, it will incite people to hate other races and neighbouring countries,” City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche told the Post. During the ceremony at Samaki Rainsey pagoda, a symbolic offering of food will be made to 1,949 monks to mark the 1949 anniversary. City Hall will reconsider allowing the KKKC to hold the public forum, which stood to draw 2,000 attendants, at a later date, officials said following the meeting.

KKKC president Thach Setha said he had agreed to the restrictions, but felt the ban violated freedom of expression. “They are afraid of us attacking [Vietnam], that’s why they do not allow it; that is silencing our rights. Cambodia does not have full independence, because we are afraid of yuon,” he said, using a term considered by some to be derogatory towards Vietnamese people.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Minority Rights Organization, said the anniversary is “important not only for Khmer Krom but for Khmer”. “People living over there [are now considered] indigenous and face persecution . . . [But] the Cambodian government does not pay much attention to supporting them.” Chanrith, whose group will be monitoring the anniversary events, said that he is worried that if the restrictions are not abided by, “police or military police [will be sent in] to block them.”

According to a letter to Setha on May 27 [2014] signed by Deputy Prime Minister Kong Sam Ol, this year’s ceremony will be attended by Samdech Sisowath Pongneary Monypong, minister of the Royal Palace.