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Cambodia orders halt to anti-Vietnamese protests
Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:40:31 PM

By So Chivy, RFA

Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Hor Nam Hong on Tuesday ordered the country’s embattled Khmer Krom ethnic group to suspend protests against Vietnam over a territorial dispute as Phnom Penh expressed “regret” to Hanoi over the burning of a Vietnamese flag during the demonstrations last week.

Cambodia orders halt to anti-Vietnamese protests after flag burning incident

Thac Setha holds a petition calling on the Cambodian Foreign Ministry to extract an apology from Hanoi during a protest in Phnom Penh, Aug. 11, 2014. (RFA)

Horn Nam Hong met at his office with the head of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Community, Thach Setha, who agreed to temporarily halt the protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh following the request from the minister.

“We issued a statement to halt the protests until the end of this month,” Thach Setha told RFA’s Khmer Service following Tuesday’s meeting, though he stressed that the demonstrations would continue next month if Hanoi doesn’t apologize over a statement it made on the historical ownership of Khmer Kampuchea Krom provinces.

The protests had flared after embassy official Trung Van Thong claimed that Khmer Kampuchea Krom—a region comprising much of present-day southern Vietnam—belonged to Vietnam even before it was officially ceded to it by France in 1949, a statement disputed by the Khmer Krom community.

Thach Setha did not say why Hor Nam Hong, who is also Cambodia’s deputy prime minister, requested his group to halt the protests.

But the state media in Hanoi reported Tuesday that Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called on visiting President of the Cambodian Parliament Heng Samrin to ensure that Phnom Penh “take proper measures” to prevent acts such as the flag burning protest from occurring in the future.

“Heng Samrin said he feels regret about the demonstration against Vietnam, especially the burning of the national flag of the country, saying that these actions were done by a group of extremists who were incited by some elements with limited knowledge about the two countries’ history,” Vietnamnet reported, citing, among others, the official Vietnamese News Agency.

Hor Nam Hong said that the spat would not affect broader bilateral relations, according to Thach Setha.

He said Hor Nam Hong also vowed to work closely with an incoming Vietnamese ambassador, who Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry has said will arrive “soon,” though no specific date has been provided.

“[Hor Nam Hong] said he will continue working with the Yuon government, especially the new incoming Yuon ambassador [to Cambodia],” he said, using a term for Vietnamese in Cambodia which some consider derogatory.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Thach Du, who was born in Cambodia, will replace Ngo Anh Dung as the Vietnamese ambassador after Dung completes his five-year post, according to a report by Agence Khmer Presse.

Read the full story by So Chivy from RFA.

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