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Letter: Rights boss is wrong

Dear Editor,

The frequent reports of violence among Cambodians may be bewildering to foreigners

new to the country, leading one prominent newcomer to allegedly quip "maybe

it has become incorporated into their genes." (Phnom Penh Post, March 17-30.)

There is, of course, no scientific justification for the racist notion that violence

in Cambodia may have genetic origins. The prevalence of violence has much more complex

reasons. Foreign nations should share the blame for their part in Cambodia's recent

history of war, genocide, and internal conflict. NGOs working with communities throughout

Cambodia are aware of the deep social and psychological scars that this history has

produced, but are also impressed by the perseverance and spirit of the Cambodian

people in overcoming these obstacles. Strengthening the rule of law is a necessary

ingredient in reducing the level of violence, and Cambodia's government has been

courageous in accepting foreign assistance for this purpose. Foreigners can be effective

partners in Cambodia's reconstruction only if we respect the Cambodian people and

recognise our common humanity.

NGOs note that violence is a world-wide phenomenon, and is a chief cause of poverty

and misery in many countries. And I am sure that many foreigners here would agree

with me that to "travel after 6pm" is no more dangerous in Phnom Penh than

in many Western capitals.

Russell Peterson

Representative

NGO Forum on Cambodia

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