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Khmer Krom Leader Says He Has Received Death Threats

Cambodian protesters use a loudspeaker for express their comment during a protest at a blocked main street in front of Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.

The leader of demonstrations at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh says he has received death threats in recent days.

Thach Sitha, president of the Association of Kampuchea Krom, which advocates for the Khmer ethnic minority living in Vietnam, told protesters Wednesday he has received phone calls from a man speaking Vietnamese and threatening to shoot him.

Some 200 protesters have gathered in front of the embassy over the past five days to demand an apology from an official there for comments he made about Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia, the Mekong Delta region that today belongs to Vietnam.

Thach Sita told his supporters he had been told to stop protesting. “If not, I’ll be killed,” he said. He had let reporters listen to the same caller on Wednesday morning, he said.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the death threat should be investigated.

Wednesday marked the end of the five-day protest. Vietnamese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The loss of Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam in 1949 is a cultural flashpoint for many Cambodians. The region was called Cochinchina by the French and had been ruled by various Vietnamese factions beginning in the mid-1600s, before it was colonized by the French in 1862. It was merged into Southern Vietnam by the Geneva Accords in 1954.

However, many Khmer ethnic minorities still live there, where they say they face persecution and abuse by Vietnamese authorities.