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Khmer Krom warned not to join Rainsy’s new movement

Kampuchea Krom activists protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2014.
Kampuchea Krom activists protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2014. Eli Meixler

Khmer Krom warned not to join Rainsy’s new movement

The head of a Khmer Krom advocacy association yesterday issued a statement urging his followers not to join ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s newly minted Cambodia National Rescue Movement, claiming it will provoke violence.

“Sam Rainsy’s movement is illegal and rebellious, provoking violence, which has left the country in turmoil in the past. Please consider, and don’t believe the inciting lies and betrayal of politicians,” reads the letter, signed by Khmer Kampuchea Krom Cultural Centre (KKKCC) Director Kim Van Cheng.

Rainsy, who was president of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party until he was forced to step down by controversial legal amendments, officially launched the “movement” from America this week, ostensibly as a vehicle to call for demonstrations in response to the government’s widely condemned crackdown on the CNRP.

Since the dissolution of the CNRP – Cambodia’s only viable political opposition – pro-government figures have repeatedly appealed to the party’s freshly disenfranchised base not to protest.

Despite being repeatedly accused of instigating violence, Rainsy has pledged to call only for nonviolent protests, although he has yet to formally do so.

In public speeches, Prime Minister Hun Sen frequently dissuades garment workers from protesting, while the country’s head monk – a former CPP member – has also told all monks to support the ruling party. Garment workers, monks and the Khmer Krom minority – ethnic Cambodians who often face persecution in what is now southern Vietnam – all participated in the demonstrations following the disputed 2013 elections, which were put down in early 2014 when Military Police opened fire on a crowd of unruly striking workers.

“I do not want the Khmer Krom people to spill their blood for Mr Rainsy’s illegal acts,” the KKKCC’s Van Cheng said in an interview yesterday, adding that Rainsy has a reputation for escaping prosecution by fleeing abroad, while his followers fight and face jail time.

But Son Chum Choun, a senior coordinator for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association, said individuals should decide their political alliances themselves, after careful consideration.

Chum Choun said he personally would support the new movement if it were legal, and if it “expels” ethnic Vietnamese. While Rainsy has controversially used anti-Vietnamese rhetoric in the past, there has been no indication thus far that this will feature in the movement.

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