This is a picture of Buddhist monks from Vietnam’s Khmer Krom ethnic minority who live in Cambodia protesting outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh. Holding the so-called ‘Buddhist flag’ they are demanding an apology from the Vietnamese concerning recent statements about ownership of disputed territory.
As part of the protest there was a call on Cambodians to boycott Vietnamese goods. Reflecting other movements in Southeast Asia part of the protest raised concerns about ‘illegal immigration’, in this case from Vietnam.
Radio Free Asia report the history of the dispute:
‘France’s Cochinchina colony, which included the former provinces of Kampuchea Krom, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949, but had been under Vietnamese control since the mid-17th century.
One of the most important seaports of Kampuchea Krom, once called Prey Nokor, is now known as Ho Chi Minh City—the financial hub of Vietnam and one of the largest cities in Southeast Asia.
Since Hanoi took control, the Khmer Krom living in Vietnam—believed to number considerably more than one million and who are ethnically similar to most Cambodians—have increasingly faced social persecution and strict religious controls, according to rights groups.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has said the Khmer Krom face serious restrictions of freedom of expression, assembly, association, information, and movement in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese government has banned Khmer Krom human rights publications and tightly controls the practice of Theravada Buddhism by the minority group, which sees the religion as a foundation of their distinct culture and ethnic identity.
On the other side of the border, the Khmer Krom who leave Vietnam for Cambodia remain one of the country’s “most disenfranchised groups,” Human Rights Watch said.
Because they are often perceived as Vietnamese by Cambodians, many Khmer Krom in Cambodia face social and economic discrimination.
They also face hurdles in legalizing their status in the country as authorities have failed to grant many Khmer Krom citizenship or residence rights despite promises to treat them as Cambodian citizens, according to Human Rights Watch.’