Thursday, 25 December 2008

Human rights not only relevant to Khmers

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Michael Hansen
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Dear Editor,

I was concerned to read in the Centre for Social Justice advertisement of December 19 that, once again, the organisation's executive director apparently holds the view that human rights in Cambodia are a matter relevant only to the Khmer.

There are many people living in Cambodia who are not considered to be Khmer - those of mixed Vietnamese-Cambodian or full Vietnamese parentage, for example - but whose rights deserve as much respect as those of the ethnic majority.

Surely it would have been appropriate to repeatedly use the term Cambodian rather than Khmer in the speech at the Wat Ounalum. Any individual can take Cambodian nationality, but it is virtually impossible for someone who is ethnically Vietnamese to ever be regarded as ethnically Khmer.

One would expect more sensitivity about this matter from both the executive director and the board of this particular NGO and, whatever their personal opinions are, to ensure inclusive rather than exclusive terms are used.

I wonder if any of the 500 diplomats, human rights workers and others involved in the field picked up on the irony that the theme of the meeting was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Michael Hansen
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: or P.O. Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.

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