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Ceremony Marks Loss of ‘Lower Cambodia’ to Vietnam

Cambodian man holds the burned incense sticks in front of a painted photo of a Kampuchea Krom Hero, Son Kuy, right, at a ceremony in Phnom, file photo.
Hundreds of monks and laymen, as well as representatives of the Royal Palace, gathered at a pagoda on Wednesday to mark the 65th anniversary of the loss of the Mekong Delta to Vietnam.

The delta was once part of Cambodia, but it was partitioned to Vietnam by the French at the end of their Indochinese colonization in 1949.

Many Cambodians remain angered by the transfer of what was then called Lower Cambodia, or Kampuchea Krom. Ethnic Khmer minorities in today’s Vietnam—the Khmer Kampuchea Krom—say they are treated unfairly by the government there, even today. (A Vietnamese Embassy spokesman dismissed such allegations as “baseless.”)

But for many, the loss of Kampuchea Krom still resonates.

“We call this treaty a cruel treaty,” Tach Setha, head of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, said. Wednesday’s ceremony was meant to remind “all Khmer people” about history and prevent such things from happening again, he said.

Tach Setha accused Vietnamese authorities of trying to “erase” the identity of those Khmer living in Kampuchea Krom, in attacks against culture, tradition and education.

“We want our voices heard and want to express our pains to the public, just to tell everyone how we have suffered,” he said. “What we want is freedom to live like other people—not to reclaim Khmer Kampuchea Krom land from Vietnam.

Members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party also took part in the ceremony.

Rescue Party President Sam Rainsy said Khmer Krom people should be treated equally. “We acknowledge and protect them,” he said. “They have rights and duties, just like the Cambodian people in Cambodia.”