Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Krom ethnic group denied many rights: report

Khmer Krom ethnic group denied many rights: report

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Buddhist monks protest at a blockade near the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh in 2015. Eli Meixler

Khmer Krom ethnic group denied many rights: report

While Cambodia in theory offers full citizenship to members of its Khmer Krom minority, in practice, many members of the community remain in a legal shadowland, unable to access a wide range of rights, a new report released yesterday shows.

Despite a professed open-door policy to the ethnic Khmer group from Vietnam, an estimated 20 to 30 percent still lack identity cards, a fact that prevents them from voting and accessing employment.

The research, conducted by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), the Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT) and Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA), focused on those without IDs, collecting answers from 264 respondents.

Khmer Krom are indigenous Khmer who live mostly in the southwest of Cambodia’s eastern neighbour. Estimates of their presence in Cambodia fluctuate wildly, with some groups claiming 1.2 million live in Cambodia and others saying there are as few as 80,000.

Over 90 percent of the respondents replied that they faced “many” or “some” problems in Cambodia, with 40 percent specifiying “discrimination by authorities and local Khmer”.

The study shows, however, that the root cause is mostly ignorance about rights, rather than active discrimination.

“Both Khmer Krom and local authorities lack understanding of the rights of Khmer Krom, and of how Khmer Krom can realise these citizenship rights in practice,” the report read.

But Cambodian laws governing nationality require either being born in Cambodia or being born to Cambodian parents, a definition that makes no specific exceptions for the Khmer Krom.

Son Chum Chuon, program director of KKKHRDA, said in an email that there was an “inaccurate perception” that Khmer Krom have always supported the opposition party.

“Some Khmer Krom people were suppressed, watched and intimidated by some local authorities in case they do not vote for the ruling party . . . They are forced to give up participation in the election,” he said.

Chum Serey, 34, came to Cambodia 12 years ago, because he found it difficult living in Vietnam without knowing how to read and write Vietnamese. He now lives in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, but lacking documents, he has found life difficult there as well.

“I want to live here legally . . . because I also consider myself Cambodian,” he said.

Thach Sin, 41, moved to Cambodia almost 15 years ago. “When I was in [Vietnam], they called me a Cambodian, but now that I am in Cambodia, they call me yuon [a term for Vietnamese considered derogatory by many].”

The vendor, who lives in Slor Kram commune in Siem Reap province, tried in vain to apply for an ID. “The police told me that they cannot make an ID card for me because my surname is [Vietnamese],” he said.

He said that they told him to pay $200 to receive his ID card if he wanted to keep his family name. “I want to live here as a full citizen,” he said. “I am never able to vote.”

Calls to numerous government departments including several at the Ministry of Interior were not answered yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Tragedy as four lions devour teenager in Pakistan safari park

    In a horrifying incident at an animal park in the Pakistani city of Lahore, four lions killed a 17-year-old grass reaper. However, how Muhammad Bilal Hussain managed to get near the lions was yet to be ascertained. Safari officials said Hussain climbed a 3.7m high

  • Hun Sen asks Cambodians to believe in government

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday asked citizens and investors to trust that the government will overcome the challenges brought about by Covid-19 and the loss of the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme. Speaking to reporters at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh,

  • Westerdam passenger ‘never had’ Covid-19

    The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the US citizen that allegedly tested positive in Malaysia after travelling on the Westerdam was never infected with Covid-19 in the first place. In an article published in the newspaper USA Today on Friday, CDC

  • Gloom hits Siem Reap tourism

    As the Kingdom’s overall tourism sector continued to grow last year, industry insiders in Siem Reap have expressed their deep concerns, citing a sharp drop in Chinese arrivals to the province beginning late last month. Cambodia earned $4.91 billion in international tourism revenue last year,

  • ‘Ghost staff’ found, $1.7M returned to state coffers

    The Ministry of Civil Service said more than seven billion riel ($1.7 million) in salaries for civil servants was returned to the state last year after it discovered that the books had been cooked to pay ‘ghost officials’. This is despite claims by the Ministry of

  • Woman wanted for killing own son

    Police in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district are on the lookout for a woman who allegedly hacked her son to death on Sunday in Stung Meanchey III commune. District police chief Meng Vimeandara identified the son as Chan Sokhom, 32. “The offender can’t escape forever.