Brief Historical Account Showing How the Cambodian Territories of Cochin-China Fell into the Hands of Viet Nam

Up to the end of World War II, French Indo-China consisted of five separate countries – Tonkin, Annam, Cochin-China, Laos, and Cambodia. The former three are mostly inhabited by a population commonly described as “Annamite”(nowadays Vietnamese) whose cultural background is linked with that of China, and they are quite distinct from Cambodia whose people are of Hindu culture. Descending from the Vietnamese, and indigenous tribe of Southern China, the Annamites had migrated southwards in great numbers and spread like a huge wave from the Red River to the Lower Mekong, and from the China Gate and the Gulf of Tonkin to the Pointe Camau and the Gulf of Siam. At the time the French established their position in Indo-China with the capture of Saigon in February 1859, part of the Cambodian territories had thus been occupied by the Annamites. This was the result of infiltration or abuse by Annamited of hospitality extended by Cambodian Kings. For example, after Tay Son uprising, the Srok of Preah Trapeang (Travinh had given asylum to the fugitive emperor, Gialong. There the latter reconstituted his arm, and was given military support by King Ang Eng, (reigning in Cambodia from 1779 to 1796). When he was back to the throne of Annam after the repression of the TAY SON uprising, Emperor Gialong “remembering”, to use his own words, “the kind hospitality” he had enjoyed of the province of Preah Trapeang (Travinh) urged King ANG ENG to exempt this Srok from all levies, and its people from all feudal duties to which the king agreed as a gesture of friendship. Later GIALONG arbitrarily made the Srok into an Annamite colony. Similarly, in 1663 King Chey Chettha II kindly gave his consent to the opening of the Saigon-Bienhoa-Baria area to Annamite immigration. The Annamite prince Nguyen Sai Vuong requested the right for his people to till the land and to engage in trade subject to the payment of taxes. King Chey Chettha agreed. He had married princes, a daughter of Ngyen Sai Vuong, and according to a tradition of the Khmer dynasty the Queen Dowager and the Viceroy were endowed with some provinces of the Empire as a personal lifetime appanage. The provinces were never excluded from the Crown possessions, but the Titular enjoyed certain rights in respect of the administration of the territory under his rule (taxation, police, etc.). In 1853, King Ang Duong alarmed by Annamite expansion and by a possible alliance of Siam and Annam for the sharing of Cambodia, secretly sent to the French Consul in Singapore a letter addressed to Emperor Napolean III in which he requested from France a certain measure of protection. The letter was not acknowledged, and the King decided to write another letter to propose the conclusion of a Franco-Cambodia alliance and to appeal to the French Emperor not accept certain territories mentioned in the letter, should the Annamites offer them to France, as such territories belonged to Cambodia. In the nineteenth century, France for various reasons was bent on a policy of expansion, and taking advantage of the attitude of friendship and confidence adopted by the Cambodian Sovereign, chose to intervene in Cochin-China. When Saigon was besieged in 1859, Cambodian troops supported the French forces by entering simultaneously the provinces of Meat Chrouk(Chaudoc), Kramuon Sar(Rachgia), Srok Treang (Soctrang), and Preah Trapeang (Travinh). Under the treaty of peace and friendship concluded with France in Saigon on 5th June, 1862, Annam accepted – in addition to clauses relating to freedom of worship in the Roman Catholic faith in her territory, the undertaking not surrender any part of her territory to anyone without consulting France, the opening of certain ports to Franco-Spanish trade, and the payment of war compensation – a clause of particular interest for Cambodian under which Annam transferred to France three Cambodia provinces occupied by Annamites – Bienhoa, Giadinh, and Mytho. The latter clause is obviously not valid, since Annam thereby assigned to a third part territories, which did not belong to her. A few year later, in 1867, on the grounds that Annam had broken the Saigon Treaty, Admiral Lagrandiere, acting upon instructions from the France Government, occupied three more Cambodian provinces. Long-Ho (Vinh-Long), Meat Chrouk (Chaudoc) and Peam (Hatien), and the whole of Western Cochin-China. The French occupation Kas Tral (Phuquoc Island), another Cambodian possession, completed their process – formal recognized by the Frenco-Annamite treaty of 1874 – by which the whole of Cochin-China (the present South Vietnam) became a French Colony. The colonial status of Cochin-China was maintained until 1949 when under a French Act passed on 4th of June that year the whole of Cochin-China was transferred to Viet-Nam, in spite of solemn remonstrations by the Khmer Government, and notwithstanding the fact that France, through her authorized representatives, had recognized the validity of the Cambodian claims.

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