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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hill tribes get written language

Hill tribes get written language

F

OR the first time, the distinctive languages of three Cambodian hill tribes have

been rendered in a readable phonetic form using Khmer script (aksor) in an effort

to improve educational access for ethnic minorities in Ratanakkiri and Mondulkuri.

The innovative nonformal education technique has been spearheaded by the Education

Ministry in cooperation with a group of NGOs who have devised three books that use

Khmer literature as a model upon which to develop ethnic minority literature languages.

In addition to the books, special songs have been introduced as a learning aid.

Phnong, Tumpuan and Khreng ethnic minority groups have been the first to use the

technique, which will be used as a model for the Charay ethnic minority group in

the future.

In The, Director of the Non-Formal Education Department of the Ministry of Education,

Youth and Sport said he was worried that the hill tribes in Cambodia would adopt

the languages of neighboring countries to further their education if Cambodia did

not step in an provide immediate assistance.

"If they take Lao, Thai and Vietnamese [Latin] scripts we will lose our ethnic

minority groups' national identity, which could affect the country's border,"

he said.

He said that in Mondulkiri province Christian evangelists have spread the Vietnamese

(Latin) alphabet to Phnong ethnic minority groups there.

Chhouk Sakoeun, a consultant at International Cooperation for Cambodia (ICC) for

minority groups in Ratanakkiri province, said the ethnic minority groups are happy

with the program and studying enthusiastically, even after a tiring day out farming.

Khoeun said NGOs in Ratanakkiri have provided some solar power units and batteries

for two hours' classes an evening in remote areas.

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