|Wat Khmer in Kampuchea Krom, now South Vietnam, Google image|
In the past few weeks, news headlines have dominated with political agreement between the ruling party and the opposition, ending a year-long post-election crisis. Then another important headline followed, protests against Vietnam embassy in Phnom Penh on a comment this embassy spokesman, Mr. Tran Van Thong, claimed, " France did not give Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam in 1949, but Kampuchea Krom is part of Vietnam land for long time ago." Such a comment has sparked angry protests among Khmer Krom and students, burning Vietnamese flag and demanding Vietnam to apologize for distorting Khmer history. However, Mr. Van Thong not only refused to apologize, but he even refused to take petition from protesters; instead he called the protesters the anarchists and extremists who have held illegal protests and urged Cambodian government to take appropriate actions against those groups. Fallowing the flag burning incident, Vietnam foreign ministry repeatedly called for Cambodian government to take concrete action to prevent further incident in order to maintain good friendship between the two countries. However, Cambodian government seems careless on such an issue-- either to take action on protesters nor to officially raise the issue with the Vietnamese government. The government sidelines on the issue creates confusion among people: the protesters claimed the government condoned their actions while government officials warned to take more swift actions on future protest, and Sam Rainsy party's senators praised Heng Samrin and his delegation in recent visit to Vietnam for not budging to Hanoi demand. Nonetheless, there is too early to make judgement on the current regime which has reputation in hashed crackdown on all kinds of protesters and full political and economic cooperation with Vietnam.