PHNOM PENH, August 16, (Khmer Times) − Cambodia remains optimistic that relations between Vietnam will remain stable after this last week’s flag burning.
The flag burning during the protest by Khmer Krom ethnic minority on Wednesday would not affect relations between the two countries, said Cambodian Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak.
“The demonstrators were simply expressing their opinions in a democratic country,” he said.
On Wednesday, hundreds of monks and representatives from Kampuchea Krom ethnic minority took to the streets of Phnom Penh and protested outside the Vietnamese embassy.
Protesters called for Cambodian Parliament President Heng Samrin to extract an apology from the Vietnamese government for a statement they issued earlier this June, saying Kampuchea Krom belongs to Vietnam.
The demonstrations consisting of the ethnic minority, Buddhist monks and students lasted a peaceful three days but led to the flag burning, which offended officials at the Vietnam embassy.
“We request Cambodia to bring these extremists to trial under the law and take effective measures to prevent a future reoccurrence,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Le Hai Binh. He added that these brash acts went against the traditional and current neighborliness between Cambodia and Vietnam.
But Mr. Sopheak reminded the Vietnamese Embassy that Cambodia treats its protesters differently than Vietnam. Cambodia, a liberal democratic state, allows freedom of expression under the framework of the law, he said.
“Protesters commonly burn flags around the world. It may be unethical, but as long as it is done during a lawful protest, it is acceptable,” said Mr. Sopheak.