Did Anti-Vietnamese Rhetoric Result in Sunday’s Shooting?

By Lim Cheytoath

After making huge gains in the recent election and holding mass demonstrations against alleged voting irregularities, the CNRP poses the big­gest threat in decades to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 28-year iron grip on power.

The first day of the CNRP’s nonviolent demonstrations on Sunday ended with violent clashes erupting between security forces and protesters in Phnom Penh. As a result, one protester was shot dead and others wounded.

According to a witness quoted by the Cambodia Daily “One dead, Sev­eral Injured as CNRP Supporters, Police Clash,” (September 16) “the police were angry because they [the protesters] were calling them Vietnamese police.”

Why did they call them this even though they are Cambodian? And why were the police so angry at being called this?

Many Cambodians dislike Viet­namese people, sometimes referred to as “Yuon” as a result of a number of historical events. Fully aware of this, politicians accuse their opponents of being “Yuon puppets” stirring up nationalism and anti-Vietnamese sentiment.

During the Lon Nol era, thousands of innocent Vietnamese people were deported and killed.  And just two months ago, on election day, some people were arrested trying to block Viet­namese voters from entering a polling station and two military police vehicles were set alight in the Stung Meanchey area.

According to experts, genocide can start from those who propose wholesale anti-ethnic policies or those who consider themselves to be future victims of anti-ethnic violence and take pre-emptive action.

The shooting of the protester on Sunday night was a human rights violation. Police forces are obligated to make sure protests occur safely, not to shoot un­armed people just because they called them “Vietnamese.” In­stead, the police should arrest those who provoke violence and send them to court.  In the meantime, the CPP and CNRP leaders should ensure an investigation into Mao Sok Chan’s death.

Lim Cheytoath, ECCC Trial Observer, The Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh

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