"I suggest Cambodian students learn English and French together," First
Prime Minister Ranariddh told a meeting at the Institute of Technology on Oct. 13.
His diplomatic opening followed a students' rally on October 7 to demand the removal
of French from the Institute's curriculum and its replacement with English.
Prince Ranariddh said he completely shared and supported the students' demand.
"One bird in the hands is worth two in the forest," he told the students
citing the ancient Khmer proverb and said they should not wait for English-speaking
countries to come to help them.
The Prime Minister suggested the students learn both English and French initially
and then choose one language most appropriate to their studies.
Prince Ranariddh said he would approach the United States, Britain, Australia and
other English-speaking countries to come and help, adding that if they did so, he
could ask France to transfer cash for the Technology Institute to another faculty
where it would be welcomed.
"One hundred years' grime can't be rubbed out easily," he said, referring
to the dominating use of the French language in the Khmer administration for almost
a decade from mid-19th century until the 1950s.
Yet, he recognized the overwhelming popularity of English in the area of technology
and job employment.
He also suggested that the Education Ministry expand language teaching across the
board and said he wanted to see the establishment of a committee to translate all
foreign language documents into Khmer by maintaining the original pronunciations
of the technical terms as did the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
He also enthusiastically welcomed the contribution of overseas Khmer professors who
have returned home.
Referring to the students' rally, the Premier said he was not frightened when her
heard "because this is the democracy we have wanted for a long time.
"We, the leaders, recognize it as the most appropriate," he said.