Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen claims there are no Montagnards in Cambodia while speaking to supporters in Australia. Fresh News
Prime Minister Hun Sen claims there are no Montagnards in Cambodia while speaking to supporters in Australia. Fresh News

Hun Sen says Montagnards don’t exist in Cambodia

Prime Minister Hun Sen once again attacked ex-opposition leader Sam Rainsy for pledging “autonomy” to Montagnards, claiming – seemingly incorrectly – the ethnic minority does not exist in Cambodia.

“We respect all minorities such as Jarai, Steang, Phnong, but we have never had Montagnards,” the premier said to supporters in Australia on Friday.

The National Police filed a complaint accusing Rainsy of “treason” last week over a 2013 meeting in which he pledged autonomy to Montagnards should he be elected prime minister. He and Montagnard advocate Kok Ksor signed a document that mostly quoted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Cambodian government is a signatory to the declaration.

“They offered autonomy to manage four provinces, and we should not forget that during the signing they used three flags – Cambodia, US and Degar,” Hun Sen said, referring to a term for Vietnamese Montagnards.

The premier claimed that using a flag to represent the ethnic minority group alongside national flags showed clear intent to elevate them to equal standing. “What does this mean? We will lose four provinces and those provinces will be attached to Degar,” he continued.

Read more: On his last night in Cambodia, a Montagnard’s tale calls into question notion of ‘voluntary’ repatriation

Rainsy has refuted the accusation, maintaining he never had any intention of granting independence or ceding land. The reference to “autonomy”, he has said, simply referred to the group’s freedom to pursue a traditional way of life.

Hun Sen also claimed Montagnards are an “ethnic minority of Vietnam”.

“It is not different from giving four provinces to Vietnam.”

In fact, the word “Montagnard” is a vague umbrella term meaning “people of the mountain”, and encompasses a variety of ethnic tribes that once lived in the mountains of Vietnam.

The Montagnard Assistance Project identifies Jarai as one of the “five major tribes” under the umbrella. Around 20,000 Jarai live in Cambodia. In recent years, hundreds of persecuted Montagnard refugees have also fled Vietnam into Cambodia, although the vast majority have been denied refugee status.

Rainsy pointed out in an email that 50 years ago, former King Norodom Sihanouk “actively helped the Montagnards . . . to preserve their cultural identity as well as their administrative rights . . . without jeopardizing Cambodia’s unity, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity”.

He also noted the term “Montagnard” includes other recognised minority groups in Cambodia, but accused Hun Sen of obfuscating facts “for political reasons”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Call for boycott of Angkor unacceptable

    Dear Editor, I wish to express my strong disagreement on the article published by Traveller for their website with the title Best places to go in 2020: 12 destinations you should avoid. Below is my opinion of the article. It is obviously free for the Traveller to

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Gov’t slams UN rapporteurs over Sokha trial statement

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva deplored the statement of three UN special rapporteurs who claimed that Kem Sokha’s trial was “tainted” due to irregularities. The reaction

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • Gov’t takes steps to lower logistics, transport costs

    With the threat of losing trade privileges in the EU drawing closer, the government is taking measures to reduce logistics and transportation costs to safeguard the Kingdom’s competitiveness. The EU is due to decide whether or not to withdraw the Kingdom’s trade privileges