Khmer Krom: After 5 Days of Peaceful Protests, Leader Receives Death Threats
Over a hundred Khmer Krom have protested for five days to demand an apology after a former Vietnamese diplomat claimed that South Vietnam, where the Khmer Krom community is settled, already belonged to Vietnam long before the French made it official in 1949. Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, Thach Sita, President of the Kampuchea Krom association, received several death threats.
More than 100 ethnic minority Khmer Krom monks and activists in Cambodia concluded their 5-day peaceful protest against a former Vietnamese diplomat successfully on Wednesday [8 October 2014] and vowed more protests in the future, a protest leader said.
On Wednesday [8 October 2014], the group marched from the Freedom Park to rally in front of the Vietnamese embassy, which was fortified by riot- police and metal barricades.
During the five-day rally, protesters had burned Vietnamese flags, dong bills and leaf hats in front of the embassy. In addition, they marched to the parliament and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Office to Cambodia to call for support in their demand for an apology from Vietnam over comments made by a former embassy spokesman Trung Van Thong four months ago.
In June, then-Vietnamese spokesman Trung Van Thong commented on a radio program that South Vietnam, which was once part of former Kampuchea Krom provinces, belonged to Vietnam "long" before France 's official transfer of the land in 1949.
The protest aimed to urge the former spokesman to recognize the true history of Kampuchea Krom and to apologize to the Cambodian people. However, Vietnam has rejected their demand, accusing them of interfering in Vietnam's internal affairs.
Thach Sitha, a protest leader and president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, said Wednesday [8 October 2014] that the protest had come to an end successfully despite no apology from Vietnam.
"During the five-day of protest, no violence occurred," he spoke to the rally in front of the Vietnamese embassy. "I will lead more protests in the future."
The leader of demonstrations at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh says he has received death threats in recent days.
Thach Sitha, president of the Association of Kampuchea Krom, which advocates for the Khmer ethnic minority living in Vietnam, told protesters Wednesday [8 October 2014] he has received phone calls from a man speaking Vietnamese and threatening to shoot him.
Some 200 protesters have gathered in front of the embassy over the past five days to demand an apology from an official there for comments he made about Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia, the Mekong Delta region that today belongs to Vietnam.
Thach Sita told his supporters he had been told to stop protesting. “If not, I’ll be killed,” he said. He had let reporters listen to the same caller on Wednesday morning [8 October 2014], he said.
Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the death threat should be investigated.
Wednesday [8 October 2014] marked the end of the five-day protest. Vietnamese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The loss of Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam in 1949 is a cultural flashpoint for many Cambodians. The region was called Cochinchina by the French and had been ruled by various Vietnamese factions beginning in the mid-1600s, before it was colonized by the French in 1862. It was merged into Southern Vietnam by the Geneva Accords in 1954.
However, many Khmer ethnic minorities still live there, where they say they face persecution and abuse by Vietnamese authorities.