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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Losing their voice: the disappearing S’oach

Losing their voice: the disappearing S’oach

091109_19
Jean Michel Filippi.

A GROUP of small, curly-haired people living in the Veal Ring district of Preah Sihanouk province are losing their voice.

Out of the entire population of these 110 S’aoch, only seven speak their mother tongue fluently.

And for Jean Michel Filippi, a consultant for the Association for the Cultural Development of Kep province, the loss of their language also means the loss of their culture, saying that it is language that contains a people’s view of the world.

This Thursday, Filippi is to present a lecture on the origins of the S’oach, which aims to offer an understanding of how and why a cultural minority can disappear.

Filippi said the S’oach language could still be salvaged if it were the will of the group.

“Preserving languages is very important because it is a testament to the diversity of humans,” Filippi said.

But for the S’oach, speaking Khmer has more immediate benefits than passing on a language to the next generation.

The languages of minorities such as the Phnong, Kuy, Jarai, Krung, Kavet, Tamuan, Stieng, Brao, Kachok are also at risk of being lost in this process of Khmerisation.

“During Pol Pot’s regime, minority people were forbidden from speaking their own languages and practising their own cultures,” Filippi said.

Following the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, many people did not return to their former villages and lost land and possessions. Seeking new employment opportunities, the S’aoch began speaking Khmer to boost their chances in the workplace – to the detriment of their original culture.

Filippi will deliver his lecture, “Les S’oach” in the cinema of the French Cultural Centre at 7pm Thursday.

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