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

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • Four-pillar approach in reopening of tourism: PM

    Cambodia is drawing up a four-strategy approach to promptly restore domestic and international tourism activity and put the industry on a transition pathway to a sustainable and inclusive model that is resistant to future crises, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The prime minister made

  • Airline says ready for green light to reopen international tourism

    Sky Angkor Airline Co Ltd on September 21 said it is ready to transport South Korean and Chinese tourists to the Kingdom once the Cambodian government makes good on plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers. The Siem Reap-based airline made the remark during a

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Cambodian bride ‘badly treated, held captive’ by Chinese man seeks help

    A Cambodian woman who travelled to China to marry a Chinese man there was “badly treated” by her husband’s family and then had to be rescued and will be returned to Cambodia to ensure her safety. The rescue operation came about after the 25-year-old