About 100 students clashed with police Tuesday near the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, where they were protesting allegedly offending remarks made by an embassy official over a sensitive loss of Cambodian land.
The protesters, from the Cambodian Students and Intellectuals movement, say they were angered by reports that a senior Vietnamese official recently said the Mekong Delta had not belonged to Cambodia.
That portion of Vietnam today was once called Lower Cambodia, or Kampuchea Krom, and was partitioned to Vietnam by the French when they withdrew from their colonization of Indochina. It is a nationalistic flashpoint for many Cambodians.
No serious injuries were reported Tuesday, though rights groups condemned the use of force by security forces in what city officials said was an illegal assembly.
In a statement, the Vietnamese Embassy said its spokesman, counselor Tran Van Thong, had in fact said the region “is an integral part of the territory of Vietnam, in compliance with international law.”
“Vietnam vehemently condemns any fabrication, distortion, slander, legally groundless opposition by any organization or individual against the unity territory integrity of Vietnam,” the embassy said.
Mao Pises, head of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students, said Tran Van Thong had not acknowledged Kampuchea Krom and should publicly apologize for “misunderstanding the history of Cambodia.”