Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Root of Racial Issue Between Vietnamese and Cambodians

Propaganda image of Vietnamese in Cambodia(Google image)


An incident of killing a Vietnamese Cambodian man by a mob on a traffic accident scene has drawn condemnation from Vietnam foreign ministry, the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia, many human right groups, and many foreign media because this murder case involving with racism against the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia.  However, this kind of racism is not new, and it has rooted between the two peoples for centuries; the racism has been practiced in both nations for generations, not only in Cambodia.  And this murder case should be blamed on the repressive policy of the Vietnamese and the current Cambodian governments which have always tried to hide the truth about history and animosity between the two countries and artificially to create a stark friendship, covering up the Vietnamese ambition to colonize Cambodia.  Without honest dialogue and mutual respect between the two nations, there is no real answer to this racial question.

Historically, Vietnam systematically has dominated over Cambodia politically and militarily.  Such dominant attitude and aggressive behavior of Vietnam on Cambodia has created xenophobia among Khmer people and their leaders for generations.  But since 1979 when Hanoi invaded Cambodia and installed its puppet regime to rule Cambodia until today, Vietnam has superficially tried all its means to bring the two people close together by eliminating bad history, creating friendships and associations in all levels between the two governments, and showing only positive images and words between the two nations such as traditional friendship, 10,000 years friendship, brotherhood, cooperation, peace and stability, and so forth.  But in reality, the two governments have completely failed to tackle the real issue that has stirred hatred and fear among the two peoples, and they were dishonest and unwilling to tell the truth about the animosity between the two nations.  Consequently, the problems of hatred, fear, and racism have grown up exponentially between the two peoples from day to day.

The positive images and slogans that the Vietnamese and its subordinated Cambodian governments have been using in all aspects in the two countries have not convinced all Khmer people that Vietnam is their good neighbor or friend, but instead it has created more suspicion among Khmer people about Hanoi's motive and policy towards Cambodia since history has proved that Vietnam has never done any good thing for Cambodia but merely persecution, destruction, and invasion on Cambodia. In 1623, a political marriage between Khmer King Chey Chetta II and Vietnamese Princess Ngyen Thi Van and land lease cost Cambodia one third of her territory to Vietnam.  In 1816, Vietnamese Emperor Gia Long forced Khmer people to excavate Vinh Te Canal and brutally treated Khmer laborers, burying them to the neck to make cooking stove boiling tea for the Vietnamese master known as "Dam Te Ong"  meaning makes tea for the master.

In 1841, under a rule of a puppet Khmer Queen Ang Mei, Emperor Minh Manh invaded Cambodia and introduced Vietnamization program in Cambodia, forcing Khmer to abandon their culture and customs and embracing the Vietnamese culture, custom, and code of conducts.  All Khmer Buddhist Wats were destroyed, Khmer names were changed, Khmer administration was replaced with Vietnamese officials, and many royal family members were imprisoned in Hue.  After completely conquering Kampuchea Krom, in 1954, Vietnam intended to cut three Cambodian provinces to form autonomous zone for its Khmer Vietminh supporters but failed to make it happen.  in 1970, Vietnam invaded Cambodia under a pretext to restore power for King Sihanouk, but they were expelled by the Khmer Rouge later.  In 1979, Vietnam invaded Cambodia again under an other pretext of saving Khmer lives from Pol Pot's killing field, and then it installed its puppet regime to rule Cambodia according to its will until today.

Since 1979, Vietnam has used all its political tactics and tricks to control Cambodia via its proxy power, the CPP and Hun Sen--the most notorious leader in Khmer history.  Since military occupation had failed, Vietnam has tried to occupy Cambodia through economic concession and influx of immigrant settlements.  Most Cambodian key economic sectors were granted to Vietnamese companies--Angkor Wat, Bokor resort, rubber plantation, Prey Land, minerals, and so on.  This kind of neo-colonialism has even created more xenophobia and animosity among Khmer people who are real owners of their land and natural resources are being left out from economic benefit, while all ethnic Vietnamese legal or illegal settlers in Cambodia have been well protected and accommodated by the current regime, any problem involving with the Vietnamese, Cambodian authorities dare not to touch on behalf of  Khmer people.  All these kinds of economic domination and privileges the Vietnamese have received in Cambodia have even created virulence among Cambodian people toward the Vietnamese government as well as its people.

Cambodia fairly has a good immigration law, but the current government never puts it into practices; during an election debate about the immigration issue on the KTV, the CPP did not mention any one word about the illegal Vietnamese immigrants in the country while all other parties had raised their concerns on this issue and intended to solve it in transparent way.  Instead, the CPP talked about sending immigrants from other countries back home when hundred thousands of illegal Vietnamese immigrants left untouched.  Frequently Hun Sen and his government declare that the number of Vietnamese immigrants in Cambodia is less than 100,000 while many private organizations placed the number up to 4 millions. Since the government estimation is too low and the other estimation is too high, the government must show its political will to solve this issue transparently in order to eliminate doubt from Khmer people hearts and minds.  As the government dare not to touch in this issue, some frustrate people have continued to take this matter on their on hands.  On the election day, numerous Khmer people could not find their names to vote on their own land while all Vietnamese could vote freely even more than one polling station.  Facing such an injustice, many Khmer people took the matter on their own hands, chasing the Vietnamese out from polling stations and rioting against poll officials and polices.

An incident of mob killing the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia is a wake up call to both Vietnamese and Cambodian government to review their oppressive and unjust policies in Cambodia. The racial issue between the two peoples--Vietnamese and Cambodians--must be solved in honest way based on historic, cultural, economic, and political contexts.  The two governments must create a working committee to study about racial issue and find a fair solution that can be acceptable with all sides if they want to solve this issue effectively.  Without honest and friendly policies from Hanoi towards Cambodia, there is no racial healing between the two peoples.  Vietnam cannot force Cambodians to accept its aggression and unjust policies on them.  Also, the Vietnamese and Hun Sen regimes should not politicize this murder case by blaming the opposition for racial incitement and pandering the people, but instead look into the root of the problem by bringing true dialogue between the two peoples to speak the truth and find a concrete way to build mutual trust in order to heal this centuries old racial issue between the two countries.

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