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).

Trinh Nguyen Separatist War (1600 to 1786)

During the Le Dynasty 1600’s, Vietnam experienced internal chaos. The Vietnamese warlords struggled for power and sought full control of Vietnam. The Trinh clan controlled the northern part of Vietnam while the Nguyen has controlled the south. Consequently, the Trinh and Nguyen wars provided the Vietnamese with opportunity to infiltrate the northeast provinces of Kampuchea Krom in the provinces such as Do Nai, Morea and Toul Ta Mauk. In 1620, the young Khmer monarch, king Chey Chetha II (1618-1628) had fallen into the similar Vietnam’s trap as that of the king of Champa in 1307. The warlord Nguyen Hi Tong (1613-1635) presented one of his exotic daughters, Princess Ngoc Van, to King Chey Chetha II for some favors . Through the Princess’ intervention in 1623, the Nguyen warlord sent his representatives to ask the Court of Udong permission for the Vietnamese to conduct trade in Morea (Baria) and Prei Nokor (Saigon ), and be given custom authorities over trading. Because of marriage to the Vietnamese wife, King Chey Chetha II had no strong reasons to refuse but granted the requests. Some historians agreed that these were the covert acts intended to rob the Khmers of their rights. Later, the Court of Hue, again, used the nice guy’s trick by volunteering their men to assist the Khmer authority in carrying out the policing in the areas. Some documents in Khmer history have cited that at the start of the relationship, the Court of Hue only asked to use certain areas in Prei Nokor to train their militaries for wars against the Chinese and they would be returned to the Khmer authority in 5 years. But at the death of king Chey Chetha II in 1628, the areas of Prei Nokor, Morea, Do Nai, and Toul Ta Mauk were flooded with the Vietnamese warlord . Kampong Srakartrey (Bienhoa) in 1651; Prah Suakea or Morea (Baria) in 1651; Kampong Kou (Longan) in 1669; Tuol Ta Mauk in 1696; Kampong Krabey Prei Nokor (Saigon) in 1696. In 18 th century, Mac Cuu a Chinese who received a permission from Ang Eum (1710-22) to con- trol the province of Peam (Hatien), Kramounsar (Rachgia) and Koh Tral ( Phu Quoc island ) in 1722. The provinces of Mesar (Mytho), Kampong Reussey (Bentre), Koh Gong (Gocong) and Peam Ba-rach ( Long Xuyen) were lost to Vietnam in 1732. Phsar Dek (Sadec), Long Ho (Vinhlong), Mot Chrouk (Chaudoc) in 1757, Raung Damrey (Tayninh) in 1770, Prek Reussey (Cantho) in 1758. The provinces of Preah Trapeang (Travinh), Khleang ( Soctrang), Pol Leav (Baclieu), and Teuk Khmao (Camau) were siezed in 1775 and until 18th century our motherland Kampuchea Krom was totally controlled by the Vietnamese 1840.

The Specific Expansion of Viet Nam

Another set back to the Khmer Empire was the southward expansion of the Kingdom of Vietnam. As early as 10th century, Vietnam first began its territorial expansion over the Kingdom of Champa. In early 17th century, they captured the remaining part of the territory, and the Kingdom of Champa was erased from the world map. The Chams’ territory is now simply known as Central Vietnam. During the reign of Tran Anh Tong (1293-1314), Princess Huyen Tran of Vietnam was presented for marriage to the King of Champa as a trap to annex the Chams’ territory. After the arranged marriage, the annexation was completed as planned, in 1673. A similar scheme was also used against the Khmer Empire. The campaign started in 1623 and continued until they occupied the whole of Kampuchea Krom.

The Decline of the Khmer Empire (1400 to 1867)

From the 3rd to the 14th century there was southward migration of ethnic T’ai (also known as Siam or Thai) from southern district of China called Nan Chau. At the beginning of 13th century, there were the establishments of some small kingdoms in the northern regions of the Khmer Empire. In 1279, the Sukhotei Kingdom was established and later on became Thailand. In 1353, at the northeast, Lan Xang Kingdom (Laos) was founded. Beyond the far northeast region of the Khmer Empire at the Chinese border, there was an establishment of a new state called Chao Chili by the Ytieh (Vietnam). Until the early 900’s, the state of Chao Chili was a vassal state of the Chinese Empire. After the formations of states and regaining independence, the wars began to take a toll on the Khmer Empire. The Thai moved south from the Sokhotei; the Chams and the Vietnamese from the northeast; causing the Khmer Empire to become very weak. Consequently, their territory became smaller and smaller as time went by. The last episode of this tragedy took place when Kampuchea Krom was incorporated into Vietnam rather than Cambodia in 1954.

Major Historical Events

After over one thousand years under the Chinese domination, the Vietnamese ambition on Territory expansion became unbearable to their weak neighbors in the south. The most well known campaign of all was Nam Tien (Southward Movement), which aimed at the Kingdom of Champa as their first target. As the campaign became reality, the southern border had been moved south as planned, Ly Thanh Tong (1054-1072), then renamed the country to Dai Viet (Great Vietnam). All of Vietnamese rulers continued to implement this campaign as their highest priority, and their border continued to open up to the south. While struggling for internal power, the Vietnamese always used the conflicts as opportunities to “borrow” neighbor’s territories for regrouping their forces or asking for asylum. When the wars were over, the grantor’s territory and their people would suffer great losses, not Vietnam. Besides, the Vietnamese leaders also used inter-marriage as another means of manipulation to capture their neighbors’ territories. The loss of Kampuchea Krom to Vietnamese was the result of these cunning practices. Champa and Laos have gone through the same experience, and the results were the undeniable facts of the recent world history.

The origin of Kampuchea-Krom

The Khmers who live in the southern regions of the greater Cambodia are called Khmer Krom. The word Khmer Krom is more acceptable by the Khmer in Kampuchea Krom than the Khmer in Cambodia since it clearly identifies the geography of where these people were born, and live since 1862, upon completion of their occupation of Indochina, which included Tonkin, Annam, Laos Cambodia and Kampuchea Krom. The French colonial turned Kampuchea Krom to a colony and called it Cochin China, whereas the other four “states” were under the French protectorate. The name Cochin, perhaps, took after the southern city of India where both places have had much resemblance to each other. During their rule in Cochin China, the French authorities practiced a double standard policy when it came to the Khmer Krom and Vietnamese. The French avoided dealing directly with the Khmer Krom and used the Vietnamese to oppress them. Kampuchea Krom was the southernmost territory of the Khmer Empire. During this period, the Empire was a major power in South East Asia. The renowned architecture and construction of the Ancient Angkor Wat and many other numerous monuments in the Empire had brought the Khmer artistic to the highest level that human beings ever attained. The ruined port of Oc Eo (O Keo in Khmer) in the province of Rach Gia (today southern Vietnam), was the busiest port in the region, where the Khmers, Chams, Chineses, Indians, and Europeans did their trading. The township of Prei Nokor was a commercial center for the Khmer Empire, and it was once the most important military garrison against the Vietnamese’s southward movement. In spite of all these, the Khmer Krom people have outlived the sufferings and turbulence of the history, and remained united until today.