About 100 Cambodian students clashed briefly with police Tuesday while protesting remarks made by a Vietnamese embassy official on the issue of Cambodian land lost to Hanoi.
The protesters, from the Cambodian Students and Intellectuals movement, gathered outside the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh Tuesday. No one was seriously injured in the scuffle with police, who tried to end what city officials called an illegal assembly.
The student anger stems from reports in which a Vietnamese embassy spokesman, Tran Van Thong, is quoted as saying the Mekong River Delta had not belonged to Cambodia in the past.
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.
Mao Pises, head of the Cambodian student group, says the Vietnamese spokesman does not know the facts of the area.
“Tran Van Thong must publicly apologize for his misunderstanding on the history of Kampuchea Krom, which is now part of southern Vietnam.”
In a statement, the Vietnamese embassy said its spokesman had in fact said the region “is an integral part of the territory of Vietnam, in compliance with international law.” It said Vietnam condemns any "distortion" of the matter.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.