Recent Developments

Since the Geneva Conference was held on 20th July, 1954, the fundamental rights and deeply-felt aspirations of the Khmer population of Cochin-China have been impaired by the occurrence of a series of new developments of increasing portent. These have aroused considerable concern in the Khmer people, always mindful of the fate of their brothers in Cochin-China. A systematic racial policy is being implemented with the obvious intention of eventually eliminating all trace likely to testify to the Cambodian character of the Cochin-China territories. These extremely serious problems, which must be solved without delay through a fair settlement taking into account the interests of all involved. 1. While the South Vietnam Government was fully aware both of Cambodia’s rights in the matter, and of the aspirations of the Khmer population of Cochin-China, it signed a bilateral Convention with France on 16th August, 1955, imposing Vietnamese nationality on the later. This follows from Article 1 of the Convention, which lays down that, “for the purposes of this Convention, the words ‘Native of South Vietnam’ shall refer to all persons with both parents of Vietnamese descent or belong to ethnic minorities settled in Vietnamese territory”. Under Article 3, it is stated that “former French subjects native of South Viet-Nam (Cochin-China) or former settlements of Haiphong and Tourane are of Vietnamese nationality regardless of their place of residence on 9th March, 1949”. 2. The above-mentioned convention was the starting point of a policy intensive assimilation, which is absolutely incompatible with the most firmly established principles of international Law regarding ethnic minorities. An ordinance issued on 29th August 1956, by the South Viet-Nam Government made it compulsory, subject to serve penalties, for all Chinese born in South Vietnam and former French citizens who had opted for Vietnamese nationality to adopt Vietnamese sounding names. On that occasion, the same obligation was imposed on the Khmers in Cochin-China in spite of the fact they are not foreign immigrations, but native of the country. In addition, registrars were instructed to make alterations in the population registers all over the country. 3. In pursuance of the same policy, the South Viet-Nam authorities have cancelled the entry “Cambodian race” from the identification papers which formerly bore it. Under the French colonial regime all identification documents issued to Cambodians in Cohin-China contained the following entries. Nationality: French subject Race: Cambodian Instead, the new documents issued by the Vietnamese authorities read: Nationality: Viet-Namese Race: Viet-Namese Similarly it was decided to cut down the teaching in schools on the Khmer language as a first step towards its gradual suppression, in disregard on the assurance given by the Vietnamese delegation to the Geneva International Conference on Education (Report by the Representative of Viet-Nam to the 18th Conference held from 4th to 17th July, 1955). 5. Only recently the South Vietnamese Government, still pursuing a policy aim at removing all Cambodian traces from the Khmer territories, re-named certain provinces when their old names were still reminiscent of their Khmer origin. Thus Tra Vinh, derived from the Cambodian Trapeang, has been re-styled Vinh-Bing, Srok Khleang, which became Soc-Trang is now Ba-Xuyen, etc. 7. Other political actions of an infinitely more serious nature have taken place which offended the civilized mind, and cannot and must not be ignored by the Members of the United Nations. a. How, for instance, should one feel about the obligation imposed on Khmers in Cochin-China to wear the Vietnamese national dress? b. While in the whole Buddhism world-to which, incidentally, Vietnamese also belongs – the priesthood of that religion is the object of the deepest veneration, the Government of South Viet-Nam, in utter defiance of the most sacred precepts of Buddhism, compulsorily enlisted Khmer Buddhist monks in the South Viet-Nam armed forces. c. In addition, traditional relations between the Khmer Buddhist clergy of Cochin-China and that of Cambodian are constantly hindered by south Vietnamese authorities, who also interfere with the introduction into Cochin-China of newspapers, periodicals, and books in the Khmer language. d. As might have been expected, many young Cambodian clerics and others had to leave South Viet-Nam and take refuge in Cambodia. Perhaps one of the objectives of the South Viet-Namese Government is to make the position of the Khmers unbearable, while in Cambodia Viet-Namese immigrants live in complete security and peace. e. urthermore, in the acute political unrest prevailing in South Viet-Nam the Khmer minority has crushed since 1945 between rival political faction engaged n violent armed conflict. As a result, tens of thousands of Khmers, exposed to reprisals from all sides, are dying in obscurity. f. Lastly, the South Viet-Nam Government, applying the principle that might is right, proceeds with the systematic transplantation of refugees from North Viet-Nam into districts by Khmers, expropriating or even expelling people from their land, and sometimes form their pagodas. All those measures are condemned by international ethics. They are part of a general scheme or policy tending both to assimilate the Khmer minority through the most extreme and brutal methods, and to eliminate the territorial problem. The Royal Government of Cambodia particularly wishes to draw the attention of the Members of the United Nations to those actions which are obviously tantamount to physical and cultural genocide.

Evidence Showing That The Cochin-China Territories Belong To Cambodia

Thus it is claimed that the former French colony of Cochin-China consists of territories belong to Cambodia. Evidence to that effect is not lacking. From an archaeological point of view, the existence of towers, bronze stone statues, inscriptions, religious edifices, brick shrines, steles, etc., proves beyond all question the presence of Cambodians in those parts. In addition to such archaeological evidence, the old maps of Indo-China (those compiled in 1593 and 1638, the map drawn by Father De Rhodes in 1650, Robert’s map of Indo-China dating from 1717, Durville’s map of Indo-China published in 1755, etc.), as well as various documents written either in the Khmer or the Annamite languages or in French, confirm Cambodia’s sovereignty over the Cochin-China territories. (See plate No. 1). With reference to demography and ethnography, the population of Cochin-China include over half a million active, courageous patriotic Khmers with the same traditions, customs, and way of life as their brothers in Cambodia, and speaking the same language. As for religion is concerned, the typically Khmer character of Cochin-China is apparent form the existence of several hundreds of Cambodian pagodas and numerous Pali schools, which in 1940 were distributed as follows:

Province Number of Pagodas Number of Pali Schools
Bac Lieu 46 5
Can Tho 38 5
Chau Doc 57 5
Ha Tien 10 5
Long Xuyen 5 5
Soc Trang 62 2
Tay Ninh 59 14
Tra Vinh 111 11
Vinh Long 1 11

The pagodas are at the same time repositories of Cambodia civilization, and spiritual and cultural centres where local Khmer observe the same form of Buddhism as that prevailing in Cambodia (see plate No. 2). As regards the legal aspects of the question, Cambodia’s sovereign rights over Cochin-China are still valid: Was there an occupation in the legal sense? The Annamite (Vietnamese) settlement cannot be so described since the area involved was not unclaimed land, but Cambodian territory, as has already been shown. Neither was there any acquisition by subjugation, for the Khmer State legitimate sovereign of those territories, never ceased to exist. Neither were the Annamites awarded the Cochin-China territories by a supranational decision, as no community of States (Conference, League of Nations, UNO) or international legal body ever took such action. Nor could prescription be invoked: indeed, a case based on such grounds would be absolutely worthless, considering that at all times Khmer monarchs have intimated, either by filing claims or by military action, their determination not to give up the territories occupied by the Annamites. In the year 1738, King Ang So took up arms against the Annamites in an attempt to expel them from Hatien. In 1776, King Ang Nuon taking advantage of a Cambodian uprising in Lower Cochin-China the same of the Tay Son revolt, seized Long-Ho (Vinglong) and Mesar (Mytho). In 1859, the same monarch ordered his troops to march on Meat Chrouk (Chaudoc). The fighting was still going on when the French landed in Cochin-China. As regards claims, they were frequently reiterated: King Ang To in 1645 and King Ang Chan in 1653 asserted the Khmer territorial rights. Besides the King Ang Duong who called for French intervention mainly with a view to regaining his Cochin-China provinces, King Norodom – on the occasion of his visit to Saigon in October, 1864 (one year after the conclusion of the treaty establishing the French Protectorate over Cambodia) – also urged the French authorities to ensure that the Cochin-China provinces were returned to Cambodia. Under the Japanese occupation, His Majesty Norodom Sihanouk, faced with Vietnam’s intention to achieve unification by integrating Cochin-China into her territory, expressed definite reservations in his Declaration of 25th June, 1945, regarding Cambodia’s rights over Cochin-China, and suggested the setting up of a Joint Commission for the delimitation of the Khmer Vietnamese border. The Nam Bo Government (Ho Chi Minh’s Government) accepted in 1945 the principle of adjusting the frontier in favour of Cambodia. When France began to consider acceding to the demands of H.M. Bao Dai’s Government for the fusion of the three Ky (Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin-China) into a single State, H. M. Norodom Sihanouk, in a letter dated 20th January, 1948, urged the French High Commissioner in Indo-China to keep him informed of the pending negotiations between France and Vietnam. However, France, disregarding Cambodia’s concern in the matter, singed with H. M. Bao Dai the Along Bay Agreements of 1948 recognizing the principle of the union of the three Ky. On 18th June, 1948, H. M. Norodom Sihanouk protested by letter, and in 1949 he sent a Cambodian delegation to Paris to attend the debate in the French Parliament on the bill dealing with Cochin-China’s new status and accession to Viet-Nam, and to formulate protests against the integration of a Cambodian territory (Cochin-China) into Vietnam. Despite earnest representations by Cambodia, France unilaterally decided by an internal law of 4th June, 1949, to hand over to Vietnam the Cochin-China territories which she had acquired irregularly in the first place. When the Franco-Khmer Treaty was concluded on 8th November, 1949, H. M. the King of Cambodian expressly intimated that by signing the Treaty Cambodia did not relinquish in any way her claims on Cochin-China, and a reservation to that effect is included in the Treat itself. Those reservations were formally and explicitly renewed by the Cambodian delegations successively at the inter-State Conventions known as the Pau Conventions, at the Geneva Conference held in July, 1954, and at the conclusion of the Paris Agreement of 29th December, 1954. On the other hand, there was no regular transfer of the Cambodian territories in Cochin-China. No treaty or convention specifies such a transfer. NO comparison before can be drawn between Cochin-China (South Viet-Nam) and Louisiana which was made over to the United States by France 1803, or Alaska – sold by Russia to the United States in 1867 – or the Caroline Islands – transferred by Spain to Germany in 1899. Nor has there been by constitution of a military occupation, since Annam has waged no war of conquest against Cambodia, and taken up arms only when asked to do so by a Cambodian prince, either against another pretender to the throne or against the Siamese at the request of the rebels. Lastly, contrary to certain contentions, there has been no frontier delineation, finally marking off the Cambodian territories occupied by Annam. The decision taken on 9th July, 1870 and the arrangement concluded on 17th July, 1873, defining the frontier between Cochin-China and Cambodia were unilateral actions by France, which at that time directly assumed the administration of both Cohin-China as a colony, and Cambodia as a Protectorate. Those were administrative measures taken by a single Power in a readily understandable desire to increase its colonial empire. Cambodia, after asking the French Government for protection and entrusting it with the care of her external sovereignty, was in no position to protest against such a definition.

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.

The Transfer of Cochin China to Viet Nam

On May 21, 1949, the French National Assembly met in Paris to decide over the fate of Cochin China. The decision was to place this territory under Vietnamese control with certain rights for the Khmer Krom were enumerated for the Vietnamese administration to follow. Despite of strong oppositions from the Khmer delegation at the meeting, the Assembly still chose to ignore them. (A Cambodian delegation composed of E.H. Son Sann- Chhean Veam- Thoun Ouk &Son Voeunsai Has been sent to France to protest against that transfer and follow the debate concerning that de-cision). With this situation, a group of French Representatives led by Mr. Gaston Deferre (Mr. Juglas, Abelin, Bourgnes, Maunoury, Duveau, Dumas, Rene, Pleven and Mr.Temple) presented a motion demanding to the French Government of solve preliminary all pending questions between the Protectorate of Cambodia and the colony of Cochin China before to yield that colony to Vietnam. On JUNE 4th, 1949, the president Vincent Auriol (French) signed the law granted Cochin China to the Bao Dai (Vietnam). Since then, The Khmer Krom people have been legally separated from the motherland Cambodia. They are now considered as Khmer in Vietnam, and as Vietnamese in Cambodia. Khmer Krom had been called or renamed by the Vietnamese as ” Vietnamese of Khmer origin or Viet Goc Mien or Viet Goc Khmer”. JUNE 4th, the losing day of Khmer Krom land.

French Domination

In 1856 king Ang Doung secretly contacted the French Emperor Napoleon III through a French Missionary (Monseigneur Miche), he list the Khmer regions in Annamite hands: the DONAI province was lost 200 years ago but Saigon, Long Ho, Phsar Dek, Mesar, Preah Trapeang, Bassac, Mot Chrouk, Kramounsar,Teuk khmao,Peam, Koh Tral, Tralach. He added: “by the chance, if Annamite Would offer any of these lands to yours Majesty, I beg you not to accept them because its belong to Cambodia”. In 1858,Napoleon III ordered Admiral Doudard De La Grandiere to follow this request. In1864 king Norodom went to see Grandiere again in Saigon, La Grandiere promise as requet. However, In 1867 Khmer movement (supported by Vietnamese) demanded Cochin China independence, So La Grandiere broken his promised with king Norodom. During their French domination from 1867-1949, the Khmer Krom people had some relief from struggles against the Vietnamese. The French administration, however, widely used Vietnamese as interpreters, translators, policemen, secret agents, and military officers, while using Khmer Krom as laborers only. Social injustice, wrongful accusations, misunderstandings, and sufferings were a part of the Khmer Krom’s daily lives. No Khmer Krom intellectuals, lawyers, doctors, engineers, generals Or any professionals were produced in Kampuchea Krom during this period. At the same time, the Vietnamese were treated well and got encouragement to go to school to better their lives. On March 9,1945, Japanese took over of French Indochina (Cambodia, Lao, Tonkin, Annam And Cochin China). On April 17,1945 Vietnam declared Independence led by Prime Minister Tran Trong Kim. Cochin China was controlled by Japan and under administated of Minoda. Japan brought Son NgocThanh back to Cambodia and made him Foreign Minister (June 1,1945).On June 18,1945, Bao Dai declared that he wanted to unity the Tonkin ,Annam and Cochin China under the government of Hue. Son Ngoc Thanh was sent to Saigon to talk with Colonel Hayashi (Japanese Political Department) to keep Cochin China belongs to Cambodia. At the same time (the document cited no dated ) the Khmer Krom of Cochin China and Vietnamese fired each other through out the country. On August 8,1945, Japan ceded Cochin China to Annam. August 14, Son Ngoc Thanh named Prime Minister. On August 14,Japanese surrended the allies forces without condition due to atomic dropped on Hiroshima and Naagashaki by the United States. On October 16,Son Ngoc Thanh was arrested and then brought him to Poitier region of France until October. 29,1951. In December 1945 and in January 1946, the Vietminh (Vietnamese League Independence or Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh led by Ho Chi Minh) persecuted thousands of Khmer Krom. (This event Annam called CAP YOUN means Killed Vietnamese, but the reality was “Khmer Krom were killed by Vietnamese.”) In the villages of Chongmisar thmey (Baso), Chongmisar chas, Kampong Touk, Thlok, Phno Rang, Kampong Toteung etc…of Preah Trapeang (Travinh) province, at least, there were 500 men were put into pillories and threw into the Kampong Toteung river. In the villages of Dam Kinh, Dam Gioi, Ho Phong, Gia Rai, Kah Mahat and Phno Andeth of Teuk Khmao, Pol Leav and Khleang provinces, the Khmer Krom leaders and intellectuals were called up on to gathering themselves in to the Japanese rice granaries. As the granaries were filled with the Khmer Krom, the doors were ordered to be closed and petroleum was poured upon them. Finally, Annam set Khmer on fire alive. (For more information, please ask Mr. SON SE who is eye evidence of the event when he was young. Presently, he is living in the Philadelphia city of Pennsylvania state) (find out and listen to the song named Chongruk Srauv Anussa THE GRANARIES MEMO).

Sena Mon’s and Sena Tea’s Battle (1860)

In 1860, under the command of the 2 bothers, Sena Mon and Sena Tea, the Khmer Krom in Srok Khleang once again stood up to the Vietnamese at Lum Pou Year (Thanh Fu). Sena Tea was wounded and died. His body was buried in the Kveng Krobel ( Hung Oh) Buddhist temple in Poll Leave (ABC Lieu) province .

Sena Sous’s Battle (1859)

In 1859, the Khmer Krom of the province of Srok Khleang, under command of Sena Sous, stood up to the Vietnamese in the battles of Mahatup and Chong Ballang. During three years of fighting the Khmer Krom won most military engagements in the areas surrounding the province. Unfortunately A Vietnamese undercover agent, belonging to other ethnic group, had infiltrated his rank joined the Khmer force and became Sena Suos’s most trusted chief. Later, Sena Sous was poisoned by the man (his name was unknown).

Lam Saum’s Battle (1841-47)

After the execution of Oknha Son Kuy in the province of Preah Trapeang, Tesa Saum, (Lam Saum) a provincial administrator, formed a force in Chab Phleung (Tap Son), Tracu District, to battle against the Vietnamese. His army won a battle in Phnor Don (0 Dung) that resulted a heavy casualty for the Vietnamese. He was later captured on another front, and brought to Hue to be executed. This happened under the reign of King Thieu-Tri, one of the Vietnamese emperors.

The Legacy of Oknha Son Kuy

During the reign of King Thieu Tri (1841- 47), the Khmer Krom were harshly forced to abandon their Buddhist religion, custom, tradition, and language. Oknha Son Kuy (also known as Chavay Kuy), Governor of the Srok of Preah Trapeang, had to give up his life in exchange for those rights. The Vietnamese Court of Hue recognized the facts and agreed to have the imposition lifted. When Oknha Son Kuy as beheaded in 1841, people rose up against the Vietnamese through out the country. The Khmer Krom had to stand alone and faced severely retaliations without any supports from King Ang Doung (1840-59) of the Khmer Empire(It was understandable that at the start of his reign, Thailand and Vietnam often attempted to impose their superiority over the Khmer internal affairs). The body of SON KUY was buried in the capital seat of the Preah Trapeang (Travinh), and his tomb is still standing in Bodhisalaraj ( Kampong) temple until today.

Colonization of Preah Trapeang

During the Tay Son uprising (1779-1796), the Srok of Preah Trapeang had given asylum to the fugitive Vietnamese Emperor Gia Long so that he could reconstitute forces against his own warlord Tay Son. King Ang Eng (1779-96) of the Khmer Empire had also provided a military support to this Vietnamese Emperor as a gesture of a good neighbor. However, after regained throne of Annam from the Tay Son, Gia Long arbitrarily turned the Srok Preah Trapeang into a Vietnamese colony. During his dynasty (1802-19), king Gia Long started an irrigation project in the Province of Mot Chrouk (Chaudoc). Thousands of the Khmer Krom were forced to dig a canal named Chum Nik Prek Teng (Vinh Te), 53 kilometers long and 25 meters wide, from Bassac River to the Gulf of Siam. During this forced labor project from 1813-1820, many thousands of the Khmer Krom were killed. In one particular instance the Khmer workers were buried alive so that the Vietnamese soldiers could use their heads as stove stands to boil water for tea for their Vietnamese masters. The phrase “Be careful not to spill the masters’Tea” is still well reminded to there Children by all Khmer Krom parents or grandparents. Before the Canal Project well done, Annamite soldiers held khmer laborers into Pillories, each fillory contained about 20-40 people (they said to prevent Khmer laborers run away from mobilization),at least from 2-5 thousand were locked in pillories located in the canal; the dam was opened, water filled the canal, all Khmer laborers were drowned, no one was survive. (Listen to the Te Ong Anussa´s song that means the Master´s Tea Memo).