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Khmer Krom Group Urges More Government Support

An overseas group of advocates has requested the government improve its support for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom in both Cambodia and Vietnam.

“They should send professional teachers and books from Cambodia to teach our Khmer Krom in Vietnam,” said Thach Ngoc Thach, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, which is based in New Jersey.

“They should celebrate Buddhist ceremonies for our Khmer Krom, so that they learn about Cambodian culture, civilization and religion, because we are the same nation,” he told VOA Khmer at the end of the organization’s annual meeting, in California.

“The Cambodian government has made it easy for the Vietnamese government to support their people in Cambodia,” he said. “Such as building schools and some other things.”

Khmer Krom in Vietnam do not learn their native Khmer in school, but instead must learn at pagodas during holidays, advocates say.

“They haven’t received enough Cambodian literature training,” said Thach Prey Chea Koeun, a 29-year-old monk from Vietnam, who now lives in Phnom Penh. “I think in the future, the younger generation of Khmer Krom people could forget the Cambodian national literature. They won’t know about their roots and the basics of Khmer. I’m afraid that the Khmer Krom youth can easily become Vietnamese.”

The Khmer Krom live in today’s southern Vietnam, which once belonged to Cambodia.

Vietnam has an estimated 456 Khmer Krom pagodas, each playing a role in supporting Cambodian culture and literature. As many as 8 million Khmer Krom live in southern Vietnam, with up to 300,000 more living in Cambodia, according to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation.

A lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, Ngoun Nhel, who is also the vice president of the National Assembly, said the government would likely review a formal request to aid the Khmer Krom.

The Khmer Kampuchia Krom Federation was established in 1999 in the US and has worked to promote issues for the group with the UN and US.

Thach Ngoc Thach said a main goal of the organization is to assure the “Cambodian people and the Cambodian government” that the group is not a danger to the country. In addition, he said, “we want the Khmer Krom people in Vietnam to know that they are the owners of the land, and they have full rights to live on their lands.”

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuy Kuong told VOA Khmer that the government afforded the Khmer Krom the same rights and freedoms as the general public.

“Our government considers Khmer Krom people who have moved to live in Cambodia as Cambodian,” he said. “They have the same protection, the same rights and the same equality before the law as Cambodian citizens.”