On 12 December 2013, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) issued an open letter addressing discriminatory language used by Mr. Sam Rainsy – leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party – in a speech delivered to crowds of supporters in Siem Reap, on 10 December 2013 (International Human Rights Day). The letter states that “during the rally, Sam Rainsy discussed Vietnamese immigration to Cambodia, referring to the Vietnamese as “yuon”, a term often considered pejorative.” Following the publication of this letter, CCHR has received widespread criticism via email and social media, claiming that the term “yuon” is not pejorative.
CCHR would like to clarify that it is aware of the history of the word “yuon” but the context in which it was used on 10 December 2013 is in itself discriminatory towards Vietnamese people. The speech stated that the Vietnamese are taking Khmer jobs and land. This is not the first time that derogatory comments about Vietnamese people have been made in Cambodia for political gain. The historical conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam has long been harnessed to win popularity amongst the Khmer electorate. Whether or not the term“yuon” is derogatory in itself is secondary in light of the main issue at stake – the fact that political leaders publically [sic] single out and criticize Vietnamese people.
CCHR is a non-aligned human rights organization that works to promote and protect the human rights of all, not just Cambodian people. Using the Vietnamese as scapegoats and blaming them for social and economic issues facing Cambodia not only distracts from constructive dialogue on reform, but potentially jeopardizes the safety of Vietnamese people living in Cambodia. In addition, it is not just the rights of legal immigrants that must be protected, but also illegal immigrants — whether they are Cambodians in Thailand or Vietnamese in Cambodia. CCHR calls upon political leaders to assume their responsibility as public figures and role models, to recognize the universality of human rights and to discuss issues such as immigration without resorting to discrimination or racism.
CCHR President Ou Virak comments:
“I fully stand by CCHR’s open letter to the CNRP. Blaming Vietnamese people and Vietnam for the many problems facing Cambodia today is both dangerous and a waste of time. The CNRP has a very large support group and CNRP leaders could potentially bring about real, lasting improvements to the human rights situation in Cambodia. We are asking them to be principled in their approach and to commit to non-discrimination in their policies and strategies. All political parties and public figure have a responsibility to combat discrimination, rather than adding fuel to the fire. As an independent human rights organization CCHR must speak out about these issues and highlight human rights violations, both by the leading party and by the opposition.”
For more information please contact Ou Virak via telephone at +855 (0) 1240 4051 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or CCHR Consultant Orla Kelly via telephone at +855 (0) 6772 7025 or e-mail at email@example.com.