Rights Group Reaffirms Stance on Use of ‘Yuon’

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) on Wednesday released a statement seeking to clarify an open letter it issued on December 12, which accused CNRP President Sam Rainsy of making comments that are “both derogatory and discriminatory, against…people of Vietnamese origin.”

The original letter, signed by CCHR president Ou Virak, admonishes Mr. Rainsy for using the term “yuon,” which can be used as a derogatory way to refer to someone of Vietnamese origin.

An online outcry against Mr. Virak followed the original letter, prompting Wednesday’s response.

“I fully stand by CCHR’s open letter to the CNRP. Blaming Vietnamese people and Vietnam for the many problems facing Cambodia today is both dangerous and a waste of time,” Mr. Virak said in the statement.

“All political parties and public figure[s] have a responsibility to combat discrimination, rather than adding fuel to the fire.”

Much of the outcry against Mr. Virak has centered around the belief that “yuon” is the legitimate Khmer-language word for Vietnamese, but Mr. Virak said Wednesday that was beside the point.

“The issue is being twisted to being about history. It is not about history, it is about racism,” he said.

“The sad reality is that many of the comments online do not address the problem of racism. The term should not be used to incite hatred.”

Comments posted to Mr. Virak’s Facebook page in the past week include calls for him to step down from his role at CCHR and suggestions that he himself is Vietnamese.

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment has been central to the CNRP’s election campaign and post-election rallies, with Mr. Rainsy repeatedly accusing “yuon” of stealing jobs and votes and encroaching on land.

In August, the CNRP released a statement to reassure the public that they were not a xenophobic or racist party.

“The CNRP opposes violence, racism, xenophobia and discrimination,” the statement says.

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