Sam Rainsy’s Pledge to Legalize Vietnamese Mere Rhetoric and Damage Control

20 April 2014 – Khmer Times

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Mr. Sam Rainsy made groundless statements detrimental to Vietnamese lives in Cambodia during 2013 campaign trail but now sings a different tune

PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) – It’s damage control because national NGOs like CCHR and international envoys like the UN don’t agree with the rhetoric against the Vietnamese and use of the word *yuon*.

In saying this, Government Spokesman Mr. Phay Siphan gave three reasons for this damage control by Mr. Sam Rainsy. 

“First, the constitution stipulates very clearly not to discriminate against any nationality living in Cambodia or abroad and encourages peacefulness. 

“Second, the legacy of the ECCC is that courts can try again whoever tries to discriminate. The world trend is against prejudice. We [Cambodia] believe we shouldn’t see anyone as a threat, but only partnership with neighboring countries to safeguard peace and growth.

“Third, we currently learn from the bad experiences of the Khmer Rouge that had the policy used against  Vietnamese to earn power after ultra-nationalism, and Sam Rainsy follows their policy.”

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Mr. Phay Siphan: CNRP on damage control mode

He added that the [CNRP] supporters have been living with communism as the Khmer Rouge always fought with Vietnam to keep their power, but lost the war.

Historically, the issue against Vietnamese for Sam Rainsy was also used in the 1970’s by King Sihanouk, then the Lon Nol regime and now by the CNRP, even after the Paris Peace Agreement, which everyone signed for peace.

“We hope the CNRP will sit in the National Assembly this term to respect the law. The CPP wants to work to improve immigration law to manage all people for human rights and quality of life in Cambodia, and also for national security and economic growth.:”

Mr. Siphan said that those immigrants will be treated equally under the law. We don’t treat them as enemies, but as human beings, so everyone has a voice in Cambodia.

Earlier in the week, CNRP leader Mr. Sam Rainsy made an about turn on his stance against the Vietnamese in Cambodia by stating: “Up to a quarter of a million ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia could be granted full citizenship rights via the Nationality Law if his Cambodia National Rescue Party were to come to power.

Mr. Rainsy has sought in recent months, through a flurry of letters to newspapers and online postings, to cast off what he calls a groundless “foreign-entertained allegation” of anti-Vietnamese sentiment leveled at him and his party.

His most recent comments regarding the citizenship rights of some ethnic Vietnamese come after the Cambodian People’s Party-led government announced the creation of two new departments in the Ministry of Interior to control immigration and the issuance of identity documents.

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UN warns Cambodian opposition party over anti-Vietnam rhetoric

On this, Mr. Siphan said that Mr. Manith Hun, the Deputy Chief of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet had already made a string statement to the Khmer Times stating in no uncertain terms that Mr. Rainsy just lies to everyone in Cambodia and abroad and misleads them who the racist and demagogue is.

“Even the United Nations Rapporteur Professor Surya Subedi had called  on Mr. Rainsy to tone down or stop his anti-Vietnamese rhetoric. Now that the CPP has come up with a cohesive and coherent plan to tackle the situation of the Vietnamese immigrants, some of whom were born and raised here and know no other country besides Cambodia, Mr. Rainsy is trying to seize the upper hand with  his own propaganda on the Vietnamese.
“Unlike the CNRP, the CPP does not use race to campaign for votes or treat anyone as second class citizens not discriminate them from having access to development. It is only Mr. Rainsy and the CNRP who discriminate, sow hatred, indirectly behest people to discriminate often violently against this minority people and then claim innocence and play with words,” Mr. Hun said.

He added that if only the international community joined the UN Rapporteur in condemning this race based politics and the CNRP for sowing hatred and creating social instability on the Vietnamese, then the situation may improve.

During the July 2013 elections, many  Vietnamese who have valid nationality papers proving their Cambodia and voters, were prevented from voting  by threats of violence. Their  experience in Cambodia’s disputed poll is a nasty byproduct of an anti-Vietnamese sentiment that runs deep in Cambodian society. 

Bound with historical grievances, fears of uncontrolled immigration, and political populism, such antipathy has led to violence in the recent past.

Numerous similar incidents of “ethnically motivated disenfranchisement” on election day were catalogued  by a leading human rights group. This vigilante action was often based on the idea that “strange”, pale-skinned, Vietnamese-looking voters unable to speak Khmer had been issued with temporary election IDs to cast ghost votes for the ruling party – a claim widely believed, but not thoroughly substantiated, by many opposition supporters.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s party, which emerged out of a Vietnamese-backed regime in the 1980s, is seen as cosy with Hanoi. 

This relationship has long been exploited for political gain by opposition leader Mr. Rainsy and now Mr. Kem Sokha , whose pre-election return from self-exile was accompanied by a resurgence in his party’s anti-Vietnamese rhetoric.

“Numerous ethnic Vietnamese have Cambodian ID documentation and have integrated well into society – however, it is true that others continue to live at the margins of society and face difficulties substantiating their legal status,” says Lyma Nguyen, an international civil party lawyer representing ethnic Vietnamese victims at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“Authorities need to distinguish between individuals who have resided for many generations in Cambodia and those who migrated to the country more recently, some for economic purposes.”

Many long-term ethnic Vietnamese once possessed Cambodian citizenship or legal residence, but were kicked out of the country when the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The 20,000 or so that stayed behind were all systematically killed.