Thank you for your consistently good coverage of Ratanakiri. The June 28 piece on
the highlanders was very informative, but a few clarifications might be in order
("Northern cultures encounter the winds of change").
The Kreung are not the dominant ethnic group in the province. If you include the
related Brao and Kraveth groups in with the Kreung, then the Kreung and Tumpuan are
roughly equal in population, with the Jarai not too far behind. Also, northeast Cambodia
has only eight or nine hill tribes, not the 20 implied in the article.
And finally, concerning the "proselytizing" of highlanders by missionaries,
Christianity was introduced to the highlanders here in 1992 by other highlanders
from Mondulkiri, and since then it has continued to be largely an indigenous movement,
with local highlanders themselves in charge and doing virtually all the spreading
of the gospel. It's hard to begrudge the highlanders the same freedoms that the rest
of us enjoy, that is, freedom to investigate new ideas and even to embrace them and
propagate them. The important thing is that any new movement among the highlanders,
whether it be a movement about health or agriculture or religion, be largely indigenous,
that is, internally propelled and led. That way, if they decide to accept or reject
any new idea or method, it is their own choice, not imposed upon them by well-meaning
foreigners. The future of the highlanders should be their own.
- J.D. Crowley, Ratanakri.