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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ethnic Violence Problem

Ethnic Violence Problem

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.



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