Ethnic minority members take part in a forum Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 in Phnom Penh. Participants said a Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker plans to apologise to members of the ethnic Phnuong minority group in person for using their name to insult an opposition party leader. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
A Cambodia People’s Party lawmaker plans to apologise in person to members of the ethnic minority group he offended by using their collective name to insult an opposition party leader, an indigenous rights group said yesterday.
Chheang Vun, a CPP lawmaker, provoked outrage last month when he called Human Rights Party president Kem Sokha “Phnuong”, the name of an ethnic minority that, when used pejoratively, implies the person is a backward savage.
He gave a qualified public apology on Thursday in the National Assemply. Vun expressed remorse for causing offense, while explaining that the word he used had no such negative connotations in the dictionary.
But Yun Mane, 33, chair of the board of the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association, said yesterday that Vun went a step further.
A day after the National Assembly meeting, he apparently told representatives of the ethnic minority that he plans to visit them sometime in Mondulkiri in the middle of next year to make a personal statement of regret.
“Chheng Vun said he will come to apologise to us in the middle of next year, but we will contact him directly to urge him to do it faster in order to finish this case,” said Mane, who is an ethnic Phnuong, who have roots in Mondulkiri province.
Vun could not be contacted, as he was traveling abroad.
News of Vun’s plans came at a press conference that several ethnic groups held at Meta House in Phnom Penh yesterday. Initially motivated by Vun’s comments, about 10 members of the Phnuong, Jarai, Kreung and Suoy minorities urged tolerance and acceptance of their people.
Nak Sandan, an ethnic Kreung from Ratanakkiri province, said yesterday that ethnic minorities are just like other Cambodians, with their own culture, tradition and family.
“We have hearts; we hurt when someone looks down on us and says ethnic minorities are cruel,” she said.
Plel Bel, a Phnuong, said yesterday people have always accused them of committing outlandish acts, even deeds as ghastly as eating their children.
“We are worried about their thinking to us, and we cannot accept how they look down on our race,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]