Apr 04, 2017

Khmer Krom: Community Granted Holiday for New Year

Photo Courtesy of Khmer Times

For the first time, the Vietnamese provincial authorities of Tra Vinh have granted the Khmer Krom community days off in order to celebrate the Khmer New Year. The Secretariat of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, whilst welcoming the decision, has demanded that the Vietnamese government issue a public announcement to ensure that all public and private institutions abide by the directive. Son Chum Choun, a senior coordinator of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom For Human Rights and Development Association, underlined that a public announcement would ensure that not only those Khmer Krom in Preah Trapaing province, but all members of the Khmer Krom minority are allowed to celebrate this holiday. This is happening in a context where Khmer Krom living in Vietnam have faced systematic persecution and strict religious controls for years.


Below is an article published by the Khmer Times:


The secretariat representing 11 branches of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association in Cambodia has welcomed a decision by Vietnamese provincial authorities to give Cambodian residents three days off for Khmer New Year.


However, the secretariat asked the Vietnamese government to issue a public directive that would apply to private institutions and to extend the holiday to all members of the Khmer Krom minority.


The secretariat said Vietnamese state schools should give Khmer students the chance to take a day off and not do exams during Khmer New Year.  


Son Chum Choun, a senior coordinator for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom For Human Rights and Development Association, said he warmly welcomed the deputy governor of Preah Trapaing province’s directive to allow Cambodian people to take the holiday.


The province is known as Tra Vinh in Vietnam.


However, he feared that some private companies would not carry out the directive if the Vietnamese government does not make a public announcement.


“It’s the first time for Khmer citizens who live in Kampuchea Krom to have a holiday during Khmer New Year, so we would like to ask the Vietnam government to allow to all Cambodian citizens who live in Kampuchea Krom to take the holiday together, not only in Preah Trapaing province.”  


The three-day Khmer New Year celebration starts on Friday next week.


An official at Vietnam’s embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.


France’s Cochinchina colony, which included the former provinces of Kampuchea Krom, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949, but had been under Vietnamese control since the mid-17th century.


Khmer Krom living in Vietnam are believed to number considerably more than one million and are ethnically similar to most Cambodians.


Since Hanoi took control of the country, rights groups say the Khmer Krom have increasingly faced social persecution and strict religious controls.

A Human Rights Watch report in 2009 titled “On the Margins: Rights and Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta” said the rights of the Khmer Krom were being violated by the Vietnamese government.


Khmer Krom were reportedly forced to adopt Vietnamese family names and speak the Vietnamese language.


The Vietnamese government had cracked down on nonviolent demonstrations by Khmer Krom, HRW said.