The UN’s top human rights envoy for Cambodia has condemned the massacre of ethnic Vietnamese and others last month in Kompong Chhnang province and said political parties using anti-Vietnamese rhetoric share responsibility for such attacks.
Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights here, called for a halt to the rhetoric in the upcoming election campaign.
The April 18 attack in Chnouk Trou village killed 23 people, 13 of them ethnic Vietnamese. Authorities blamed a band of Khmer Rouge rebels.
Hammarberg urged the government to bring the attackers to justice.
“I am particularly concerned that the attack took place in the pre-election period when ethnically and racially inflammatory language is once again being used by some politicians and political parties,” Hammarberg wrote in a statement released Tuesday.
“While most of these killings appear to have been carried out by persons affiliated with the Khmer Rouge, all Cambodian politicians and authorities have a responsibility in this regard,” he wrote.
“I therefore call on all political parties to condemn this massacre unequivocally and to instruct their members to refrain from using language which may incite similar attacks in the future.”
The statement appeared to be a warning to parties such as Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party, whose officials have in the past used anti-Vietnamese language in apparent efforts to capitalize on many Cambodians’ hatred for the nation that occupied Cambodia during the 1980s.
Just four days after the Kompong Chhnang massacre, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh complained of illegal Vietnamese immigration and promised to do something about it if elected.
Sam Rainsy said Tuesday that Vietnamese immigration and territorial integrity are legitimate campaign issues, as long as parties make it clear that violence is not the answer.
“We have a political platform made up of 10 points. One of the 10 points is illegal immigration. But we have stressed that any problem needs to be resolved legally and peacefully,” he said.
“Anytime I talk about illegal immigration I have advocated the rule of law and the necessity to refrain from violence,” he said. “I appeal to Cambodian people not to harm or even touch a single hair of any people, including Vietnamese.”