In the Post of August 4 Bou Saroeun reports on a written language for hill tribes
in Ratanakkiri. He starts the article, which is very informative, with the words
"for the first time". This might give the impression that only now such
a language has been introduced.
However, during my visits in 1997 and late 1998 I found teaching material in hill
tribe languages using the Khmer alphabet, including a draft for a primary school
This new material and alphabet was developed by a couple of missionaries. However,
it seemed at the time that the Phnom Penh Government rejected the introduction of
any minority language for use in primary schools. Instead the use of Khmer as the
teaching language was promoted.
In a report that I prepared for CIDSE on the situation of their program in Ratanakkiri
in 1999 I pointed out that the lack of primary school teaching in Ratanakkiri among
the hill tribes in great part was hampered by the insistence of the Ministry of Education
on using the Khmer language.
Another obvious limitation for the proliferation of primary school education among
the hill tribes was the reluctance of Khmer teachers to live in remote areas under
To overcome these constraints I recommended the introduction of the already existing
and tested minority languages using the Khmer alphabet in primary school education.
Another recommendation was facilitation of teacher education of more local people,
eg in Stung Treng through study grants. I am pleased to note that seemingly the Government's
reluctance to introduce local languages for teaching has been reversed.
- John Vijghen, International Experts for Community Research, Chiang Mai