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Vietnamese are victims

Dear Editor,

Several articles in your recent edition highlighted the

issue of racism in Cambodia against people of ethnic Vietnamese

origin.

Amnesty International has long worked on behalf of individuals in

Cambodia whose human rights have been violated, a number of whom have been

targetted because they were labelled Vietnamese - even though many of them had

been born in Cambodia.

It is a gross distortion of the truth to suggest

that in the past, "Vietnamese" were somehow responsible for the massacres to

which they fell victim, because they had "not respected Cambodia's integrity and

sovereignty." The ethnic Vietnamese were, and remain a vulnerable minority in

need of protection from the racism and discrimination to which they have been

subjected.

In 1994, Amnesty International wrote to the Royal Cambodian

Government, expressing concern that individuals of ethnic Vietnamese origin with

a legitimate claim to Cambodian citizenship were suffering discrimination at the

hands of local authorities, including the confiscation of identity documents,

harassment and extortion.

The organization is concerned that, once again,

no distinction is being made between long-term residents from the ethnic

Vietnamese minority and recent migrant workers who have come to Cambodia to seek

short-term employment.

Cambodia is a state party to the International

Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 26 of which states: "All persons

are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the

equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any

discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion,

political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or

status."

Targetting individuals because they happen to speak a language

other than Khmer is a clear violation of this Covenant.

In 2001, the UN

will hold an international conference against racism, designed to encourage

people from all backgrounds to eliminate the scourge of racism, and instead

celebrate the diversity of people which make up the world's population. The

contributions of some politicians to your newspaper's last edition underline the

urgent need for this conference, and for a more tolerant and inclusive view of

who may call themselves Cambodian.

Rory Mungoven, Asia Pacific Program Director, Amnesty International,

London

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