Ethnic Minorities Plan for Racism Conference

Port Kinh, a member of the Tom­­­pon tribe in Ratanakkiri prov­ince, says he is tired of being push­­­ed around.

“Hill tribe people have been intimidated, and the land has been confiscated by powerful people. Some bought a small chunk of land but occupy a much larger piece,” he said.

“If we don’t have money [the authorities] don’t receive and resolve our complaints,” he added. “We go to the hospital, but be­cause we have no money the doctors don’t pay much attention.”

Braing Thil, a Phnong tribes­man from Mondolkiri province, said he’s tired of his people being called “monkeys” or “jungle men.”

“Sometimes we are accused of eating human flesh. It is completely untrue,” he said.

Ethnic minorities throughout Cambodia were invited to Phnom Penh Tuesday for a conference to help draft recommendations for the UN World Conference on Racism, sche­duled to begin next month in South Africa.

About 10 percent of Cambodia’s population of 11.4 million belong to minority groups, said Pen Dar­eth, consultant to the Council of Ministers. Islamic Chams make up about 40 percent of that group; Viet­namese make up 21 percent and Chinese 9 percent. Pen Dar­eth called for a new government department to help minorities.

Khmer Krom participants said they often face discrimination be­cause local authorities did not see them as authentic Cambodians.

“When they see our surnames like Thach and Seung, they do not provide us with identity cards,” Thach Khemarin said.

“When our relatives [from Viet­nam] come to visit us in Cambo­dia, police usually take money from each of them, at least $25, sometimes $50 or $75,” said Tich Chhounh, a Khmer Krom from Svay Rieng province.

Hill tribe members said they were exploited because they are poor and viewed as ignorant.

“When the students have no money to pay for [answer forms] for the exams, they weren’t al­lowed to take exams,” said Loek Reub, a Pnong from Ratanakkiri.


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