Friday, 11 July 2014

Khmer Life is Cheap

“The government could not draw conclusions based on Thailand’s response [to the alleged Thai soldiers killing Khmers crossing the border].”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong, 17 March 2014

“This is the fourth or fifth time already that the Thai military fired at loggers so far this year. Most of them are migrant villagers from Kampot and Kampong Speu.”

RCAF intelligence officer at Preah Vihear border Preap Thoeurth, 13 March 2014

“We are [having] difficulties talking with the Cambodian authorities, they provide just a little [information on the border killing].”

ADHOC senior monitor Chan Soveth, 16 March, 2014

“The Khmer Krom people who live in Vietnam are Vietnamese and subject to Vietnamese law.”

Secretary of state at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ouch Borith, 22 January 2014

“When I was in Kampuchea Krom, they called me Khmer, and in Cambodia, they call me yuon.”

“Sok”, 30, Khmer Krom living in Cambodia, 13 February 2014

“We condemn the activities of the group [who murdered Nguyen Vann Chean] and ask authorities to take measures to arrest all the suspects. This kind of violence cannot be allowed to happen again. The Cambodian police must find those responsible.”

Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Tran Van Thong, 18-19 February 2014

“The killing is a direct result of the rhetoric used by Sam Rainsy and his party, who use the word ‘yuon’ to incite ethnic cleansing and gather [political] support.”

CPP spokesman Phay Siphan, 18 February, 2014

To many Khmers, their life is not worth that much – not from the CPP government’s perspective, anyway. The Ministry of Interior says at least 69 Cambodians were shot dead by Thai forces at the border last year. But the government effort to address the issue with Thailand is not as intense as ferocious crackdowns they are prepared to inflict upon local protesters.

In response to the latest border killings, it has eventually issued another diplomatic note requesting Thailand to stop shooting Khmers who illegally cross the border for their daily needs. Civil society ADHOC, however, claims the request will again be ignored, and that the government ought to try other means.

To the west, the CPP government’s attitude towards ethnic Khmers in Vietnam or in Cambodia is not much different; they cast off the Khmer Krom people, leaving them to their own precarious livelihood.

This disavowal cannot be more in contrast to that Vietnam’s embrace for ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia. Vietnam’s reaction to the murder of the ethnic Vietnamese in Phnom Penh is swift and imposing – as if they have installed the CPP government to run Cambodia as their political land concession. They say they will also conduct their own scrutiny in addition to their stern demand for an investigation by local police. How much notice does the CPP government take of the Vietnamese crack-the-whip warning that such “violence cannot be allowed to happen again”?

There has been no CPP official response to the Vietnamese backlash. Their best option is to show their fist to their opposition. Someone local must take the blame.

Why is Khmer life so expendable?

Ung Bun Ang


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