There have been further reports from Cambodia of the slaughter of innocent people,
solely on the basis of their alleged ethnic background. During the month of March
alone it was confirmed another 42 ethnic Vietnamese villagers from Siem Reap and
Kompong Chhnang provinces were massacred, allegedly by the Khmer Rouge, adding to
the long list of similar incidents during 1992. This violence is horrific and represents
one of the ugliest aspects of the political campaign in the lead up to the Cambodian
elections planned for May 1993. All Cambodians and those deeply concerned about these
gross violations of human rights, must act now before Cambodia descends again into
the darkest depths of its ignominious past.
Pogroms or singling out and victimizing people on the basis of their ethnicity, has
no part in a civilized society. Such action is particularly repugnant as part of
a political strategy and was well known as a tool used by Hitler and the Nazis. The
strident anti-Vietnamese views being expressed not only by Pol Pot and the Khmer
Rouge but also by extreme right-wing groups, can contribute only to the disintegration
of the Cambodian society as this would, as in the past, breed a vicious cycle of
killings and revenge carnage.
Cambodian leaders concerned about the future of a peaceful and a united Cambodia
must take full responsibility for putting an end to the anti-Vietnamese hysteria
which appears to be sweeping the country. If there is real concern about controlling
migration from Vietnam or any other country in the region then the leadership of
the SNC must debate that issue openly. Replacing debate about real issues facing
all Cambodians with talk of ethnic violence is a road to disaster. Standing back
and doing nothing is also culpable.
Cambodia is not an island. Khmer culture comes from a rich mixture of traditions
over the centuries-from the Buddhist temples of Angkor with strong Indian Hindu influence,
to the Cham people and the Chinese and Vietnamese who came to trade and fish. Turning
back the clock in such a self-destructive way is no answer for the Cambodian people.
There is only one way-looking forward with open eyes and an open mind.
In the late 1970's and early 1980's many Cambodians fled their country to make new
homes in more peaceful countries like Australia, France, Canada and the USA. Settling
into these very different societies and cultures was not easy and many were shocked
to experience strong anti-Asian racism. However, Cambodian refugees like other immigrants
received strong support from those who opposed racism and defended the rights of
people regardless of skin color, religion or ethnic background, to live and work
peacefully in their new found homeland.
Prince Norodom Sihanouk and others have publicly opposed the anti-Vietnamese violence
and intimidation. We call on all Cambodians, wherever they are, to join together
in putting an end to using fellow human beings as scapegoats in these difficult times.
We call on the SNC and UNTAC to take positive action to end the anti-Vietnamese violence.
The world, of course, would not want to see the repeat of the raping, looting and
killing of innocent Cambodians by invading Vietnamese troops in response to Lon Nol
and Pol Pot's ethnic cleansing during 1970's. It would be equally tragic if the Vietnamese
exact their retribution on Cambodians in Vietnam. This cycle of Kama and traditional
hatred must now be broken in a civilized manner.