C AMBODIA is commemorating the UN's 50th anniversary "Year of Tolerance" - a
world-wide initative to stop racism and xenophobia.
A national committee
has been set up, headed by Kong Sam Ol, deputy prime minister and minister of
the Royal Palace, and Defence Ministers Tea Banh and Tea Chamrath.
Nations' "sponsored days", for example highlighting youth, education, peace,
refugees, the environment, Aids, rural development and human rights, will be
There are also planned marathons - in Phnom Penh and the
provinces - and photo and poster exhibitions, all under the "Year of Tolerance"
Racism and xenophobia were top agenda issues during the 1993
European Council meeting, and this campaign is the single most important plan of
The concept of "inferiority of races" (racism), and literal "fear
of strangers" (xenophobia), is a well-documented phenomenon in this part of the
world, especially locally among Thais, Vietnamese and Khmers.
buzz-words are tolerance, equality, dignity and democracy. The campaign logo
(above) is "All Different, All Equal."
Czech Republic president Vaclav
Havel, in a key-note quote to the campaign, said: "One aspect of the immense and
wonderful color and mystery of life is that groups of people differ from each
other as groups: in their customs, their traditions, their way of life, their
faith, the color of their skin and their way of dressing and so on... This
"otherness" of different communities can of course be accepted with
understanding and tolerance as something that enriches life: it can be honored
and respected, it can even be enjoyed."