Freie wissenschaftliche Arbeit zur Erlangung des Grades eines Diplom-Verwaltungswissenschaftlers an der

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Illustration 10: Ethnic Groups according to the Administration Department of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI 1995)

Ethnic Group


Percentage of Total
















Phnong (Mnong)














































































Khmer Khe









*Total Percentage by calculation less than 100.00% because of rounding

Illustration 11: Ethnic Groups in Cambodia according to the Administration Department of the Ministry of the Interior (MoI 1996)

1 It is not least for these reasons that the United Nations has initiated the International Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples. The goal is to foster international cooperation to help solve problems faced by indigenous peoples in such areas as human rights, culture, the environment, development, education, and health. However, this initiative is in its tenth year and has brought little improvement in most parts of the world. Indigenous groups continue to face multiple threats to their beliefs, cultures, languages, and ways of life, and the disadvantaged situation of indigenous peoples all over the world remains very challenging (UNDP 2004: 29).

2 Some examples of this shifting approach toward the accommodation of indigenous peoples in Western countries include the establishment of a Sami Parliament in Scandinavia, the emergence of “Home Rule” for the Inuit in Greenland, the constitutional endorsement of Aboriginal rights in the 1982 Canadian constitution, the revival of treaty rights through the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, various laws and court cases confirming self-determination rights for American Indians and the recognition of Aboriginal Australians’ land rights in the Mabo decision (for a detailed discussion of the Mabo decision see Hinchman and Hinchman 1998). Countless legal and constitutional changes in Central and Latin America confirm the recognition of indigenous rights, and it is here where most ratifications of the relevant ILO Convention No. 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples have been made.

3 In some parts of India, for example, self-government, communal land titles, and various affirmative action programs have been adopted. Indigenous land rights have been confirmed in Nepal, Taiwan, and New Caledonia. The Philippines have recognized and strengthened indigenous rights through the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act in 1997. However, in most Asian countries indigenous peoples continue to face harsh policies and their distinct needs and rights are being neglected. In many countries, indigenous peoples continue to have little or no legal protection of their land rights while policies encourage settlement in their homelands. For a number of case studies involving Asian countries and indigenous rights see Magallanes and Hollick 1998 and ILO 2000b.

4 Interestingly, there are at least five explicit references to liberalism in the Constitution, in the preamble and in the Articles 1, 50, 51, and 134. Article 1, for example, states that “Cambodia is a Kingdom with a King who shall rule according to the Constitution and to the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism”. Article 51 determines that “The Kingdom of Cambodia adopts a policy of liberal democracy and pluralism”.

5 Based on a screening study, the World Bank determined that its policy on indigenous peoples – Operational Directive 4.20 – applies to highland peoples in Cambodia. In the context of the Rural Investment and Local Governance Project (RILGP), the bank states that “at present, Seila [the Royal Government’s decentralization program] objectives and procedures do not explicitly consider program impacts on the various ethnic minorities residing within program provinces. As a prerequisite to World Bank support, however, RILGP must meet the requirements of Operational Directive 4.20” (World Bank 2003: 2). In this situation, World Bank policy requires the borrower to develop an Indigenous Peoples Development Plan consistent with various demands of Operational Directive 4.20. Similarly, ADB determined that its Policy on Indigenous Peoples applies to hill tribes in Cambodia (ADB 2002: pp. 1).

6 This controversy is part of a broader debate in political science on citizenship. At least five models are prominent in this debate: France (defining citizenship based on territory, jus soli), Germany (defining – until recently – citizenship exclusively by birth origin, that is: in ethnic terms, jus sanguinis), United States (as an ‘immigrant society’), Switzerland (as an old and successful multination state), and Canada. Canada was the first country to formulate and implement multicultural policies.

7 The following section is informed by Kymlicka 2001b: 17-38.

8 For a recent endorsement of this position in the development literature, see Sen 1999. The author is also among the main contributors to the UNDP’s concept of human development and wrote parts of various Human Development Reports, not least the most recent one which deals with cultural diversity.

9 According to Kymlicka, liberal culturalism emerged into the consensus position amongst liberal theorists (Kymlicka 2001b: 38). This assumption is surely overstated, as there remain influential liberal objections to multiculturalism. A good example is Barry’s recent book Culture and Equality, which offers a polemical criticism of multiculturalism, with Kymlicka’s theory as its main target (Barry 2001).

10 In the case of the United States, for example, decisions about the boundaries of state governments were intentionally made in a way that ensured the dominance of the English language throughout the territory. Ongoing policies reinforce this dominance in several ways. Children are legally required to learn English in schools. To acquire American citizenship, immigrants are legally required to learn English. In practice, command of the English language is required for employment with the government or to secure government contracts. Kymlicka suggests that these decisions are not accidental exceptions to the principle of cultural neutrality, but tightly interrelated. Together, those decisions “have shaped the very structure of the American state, and the way the state structures society” (Kymlicka 2001b: 25).

11 Kymlicka mentions that Switzerland might be the only country that did not attempt to develop a single national language and culture (Kymlicka 2002: 346).

12 It is worth mentioning that other theorists of multiculturalism base their theories on a similar distinction between immigrant ethnic groups and incorporated national minorities, such as Spinner 1994.

13 One of the earlier attempts to distinguish various classes of groups in order to assign specific rights to them is offered by Van Dyke. From his extensive report of the practice of group rights, Van Dyke derives a set of nine criteria for differentiation (1985: 213-15). The scope of this study does not allow for their discussion. Yet with regard to Kymlicka’s distinction, it should be mentioned that each of Van Dyke’s criteria would assign a stronger claim to national minorities than to ethnic groups. With his distinction, Kymlicka can be said to have discovered the underlying logic of Van Dyke’s criteria for differentiation. Moreover, with his concept of societal cultures – to be discussed later in this thesis – Kymlicka offers a systematic justification of group-differentiated rights that is consistent with core liberal ideas. In this and other regards, Kymlicka’s theory can be said to fill precisely the gaps in liberal theory that were revealed and criticized by Van Dyke. More recently, Margalit and Raz developed a set of six characteristics relevant to identifying nations or peoples as candidates for the right to self-determination (1995).

14 Although ethnic groups are not the major concern of this paper, the following subdivision should be mentioned, because it appears to be highly relevant in the Cambodian context. In recent writings, Kymlicka stresses the distinction between immigrant groups and metics. He uses the term ‘immigrants’ exclusively to refer to people who enter a state under an immigration policy and have the right to gain citizenship within a short period of time and under only minimal conditions. In contrast, ‘metics’ refers to a diverse category of groups who do not have the opportunity to gain citizenship, such as irregular migrants, refugees, or ‘guest workers’. The situation of metics is quite different from immigrants, since they face great obstacles to integration. In short, Kymlicka argues that it is morally required, and the only feasible strategy, to allow and encourage long-settled metics to follow the immigrant path to integration (Kymlicka 2002: 357-59, 2001a: 152-76). This appears to be highly relevant with regard to ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia. The second part of this paper will touch on this matter again.

15 Such as Young 1997, Parekh 1997, Forst 1997, Carens 1997.

16 More precisely, the statement of coverage in the convention’s first Article spells out that the convention covers those “peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural, and political institutions”. It is worth mentioning that Cambodia is a member of the ILO but did not yet ratify Convention 169, as all countries of Asia and Africa have.

17 World Banks Operational Directive 4.20 identifies indigenous peoples by the following characteristics: (a) close attachment to ancestral territories and the natural resources in them; (b) presence of customary social and political institutions; (c) economic systems primarily oriented to subsistence production; (d) an indigenous language, often different from the predominant language; and (e) self-identification and identification by others as members of a distinct cultural group (World Bank 1991).

18 Federalism is used in Canada to accommodate national diversity with regard to the Quebecois. Moreover, following the demands of the Inuit indigenous group, the Canadian government has approved the redrawing of federal boundaries, so that members of the Inuit form a partially self-governing majority in Nunavut, the eastern half of the Northwest Territories. Nunavut covers about one-fifth of the Canadian land mass (Levy 2000: 307). In contrast, deliberate decisions in the United States were made not to utilize federalism for the accommodation of cultural diversity. Consequently, none of the United States’ existing sub-state units serves to secure self-government for a national minority (Kymlicka 1995a: 29). However, self-government for national minorities in the United States is instead achieved outside the federal system (such as in Puerto Rico and Guam) and through political institutions inside existing states (such as Indian reservations). Kymlicka argues that the absence of constitutional protections has tended to make national minorities in the United States more vulnerable. At the same time, those mechanisms can be adjusted more flexibly to the needs and interests of various national minorities.

19 Van Dyke discusses a number of cases of group-differentiated treatment of indigenous peoples in various regions of the world: Van Dyke 1985: 79-110.

20 The concept of societal cultures is explicitly and strongly criticized by Benhabib. She claims that “there are no such ‘societal cultures’” because there is no single culture which extends across the full range of human activities nor a single principle which encompasses both public and private spheres (2002: pp. 60). The scope of this paper does not allow discussing this criticism in depth. However, as the second part will show, Kymlicka’s concept of societal cultures is particularly well suited for indigenous peoples in Cambodia, not least because a separation between public and private spheres is not of great importance here.

21 Levy argues that not all internal restrictions are illiberal, in Levy 2000: 321.

22 For example, the right of indigenous peoples in the United States to self-government involves the tribal councils’ exemption from some of the requirements spelled out in the American constitution. This exemption raises the possibility that members of those groups could be oppressed in the name of group solidarity. In many cases those concerns involve the constitutional requirement for sexual equality. Yet many Indians fear that those concerns reflect misinformed and prejudiced stereotypes about their culture. And they fear their rights might be interpreted in a culturally biased way by the Supreme Court. For example, while certain traditional forms of consensual decision-making could be seen as disregarding democratic rights, they frequently do not violate the underlying democratic principle. Only they do not use the particular process proposed by the constitution. “Indian leaders worry that white judges will impose their own culturally specific form of democracy, without considering whether traditional Indian practices are an equally valid interpretation of democratic principles” (Kymlicka 1995: 39).

23 Consider, for example, the case of the ethnic Vietnamese. The Khmer Rouge insisted that there were more than 4 million Vietnamese in Cambodia (Hawk 1995: 27). The State of Cambodia estimated there were just 200.000. The current government estimated their number in 1995 at about 100.000 while independent observers suggest that there are about 300.000 ethnic Vietnamese (Pen 2002: 6).

24 The statistics by the Ministry of Religious Affairs (1992) and the Ministry of Interior (1995, 1996) can be found in the Appendix.

25 Leng Vy, Director of the Department of Local Governance in the Ministry of Interior, suggested in interviews and during the Consultative Meeting on November 27, 2003 that all of Cambodia’s provinces other than Phnom Penh and Kandal contain communities of indigenous peoples.

26 The first migration occurred following the conquer of Vijaya in 1471. The second migration occurred in 1692 and is closely associated with the Vietnamese expansion into, and colonization of, the Mekong Delta mentioned above. At this time, the Vietnamese reinforced their control over the territories they had annexed during previous decades and proceeded to take possession of Panduranga. Preferring to move and live among Khmers rather than under Vietnamese rule, many Chams left Panduranga for Cambodia where they were welcomed by the king and allowed to settle in various places. The third Cham migration to Cambodia took place in 1795-96. At this time, the Chams where divided among themselves and split up into two groups. The smaller of those groups migrated to Cambodia, while the other group remained in Panduranga trying to achieve a modus vivendi with the new emperor in Vietnam, Nguyen Anh. The fourth – and final – Cham migration to Cambodia took place from 1830-1835. The end of a civil war allowed the second Nguyen emperor, Minh Menh, to focus on consolidating his control over the annexed territories: “… an intensive Vietnamization campaign was enforced on the Chams remaining in Phanrang. Cham religious observances, ceremonies, costume were suppressed … Political jurisdiction and offices were renamed in Vietnamese, and Vietnamese codes and judicial procedures were introduced. Onerous new taxes and labor demands were levied in an attempt to treat the Chams like conquered rebels and then to transform them into Vietnamese” (Collins 1996: 39). This Vietnamization campaign met considerable resistance on the part of the Cham, involving various uprisings and the attempt to reconstitute a Cham state by means of a ‘war of national liberation’. Following some initial military successes, the Vietnamese emperor Minh Menh intervened personally to pursue “a ferocious repression … aiming to eradicate any trace of an autonomous Cham identity” (Collins 1996: 41). Minh Menh succeeded in reestablishing imperial authority and his defeat of the Cham led to the fourth migration to Cambodia, the extinction of Panduranga and the demise of Champa.

27 In this regard, Collins reports an interesting occurrence: a group of Europeans killed the Khmer king in 1596 and supported his successor who angered Cambodia’s Muslim population. Following the subsequent hostilities between Muslims and Europeans, the Muslims withdrew to Tbong Khmum in Kampong Cham, where Chams lived territorially concentrated, and proclaimed their leader the king of an independent territory in Eastern Cambodia. It did not take long for the Khmer authorities to regain control over the rebel province, although the new King was killed in the process (Collins 1996: pp. 33). Other than on this occasion, the Chams did not exercise sovereignty over any territory in today’s Cambodia. And besides this occurrence the recreation of their societal culture does not seem to have been the Chams’ aspiration.

28 Already during the Angkor period, a small number of Chinese traders were present in Cambodia (Chandler 1991: 74). In addition, sailors were among the earliest Chinese migrants to Cambodia, arriving first in the 13th century with the aim to escape poverty in southern China. Those sailors and traders integrated and their migration did not yet lead to the emergence of ethnic Chinese communities. The earliest wave of political refugees from China arrived following the fall of the Song Dynasty in 1276 (Edwards 1996: 115). Similarly, the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 led to another wave Chinese seeking refugee in Cambodia.

29 Collins distinguishes three categories of Muslims in Cambodia, which relate differently to the majority nation and show different levels of linguistic integration. “Chvea” is the Islamic group with the highest level of linguistic integration, insofar as its members do not speak Cham, but Khmer. Collins refers to the second group as “Cham”. Its members speak both Cham and Khmer. The third category of Muslims in Cambodia, “Jahed”, is a group centred in a few villages in Oudong, Pursat, and Battambang. Members of this group are regarded as preservers of the ancient Cham culture, texts, and language (Collins 1996: 62-82).

30 A phase of cultural isolationism began only when Chinese identity was reinforced during the French colonization. The French adopted a system of separate Chinese congregations. Urban Chinese communities were accommodated in separate quarters and provided with Chinese schools, of which ninety-five were established between 1902 and 1938. Chinese newspapers were widely available. Because colonial policy allowed Chinese women to immigrate, Chinese males were more likely to bring their wife with them or marry a Chinese wife (Edwards 1996: 135). Under these circumstances, ethnic Chinese were less and less likely to communicate in Khmer. French was the preferred choice for a second language because of attractive positions in the colonial administration. This trend of linguistic isolationism continued in the post-colonial era under Sihanouk. By 1967, there were 170 Chinese schools in Cambodia, most of which did not teach Khmer or offer courses in Cambodian history, geography, or culture (Edwards 1996: 136). As a result, many ethnic Chinese knew little or no Khmer by the end of the Sihanouk era.

31 Successive Vietnamese expansion led to the incorporation of much of the Mekong Delta (Kampuchea Krom or ‘lower Cambodia’) into the Vietnamese empire. This territory remained in dispute during the French colonization until the French finally granted it to Vietnam after the Second World War. Substantial numbers of ethnic Khmers were forced to live permanently in Vietnam. Ethnic Khmer who lived in those territories did not choose to migrate to Vietnam. They were members of Cambodia’s societal culture and occupied what used to be part of Cambodia’s territory prior to being involuntarily incorporated into the Vietnamese nation-state. It is worth mentioning that Cambodia lost territory to Thailand in a somewhat similar process, most notably the Surin province, where Khmers form a sizeable national minority today.

32 Collins offers a very thoughtful interpretation of Sihanouk’s classification in Collins 1996: pp. 47.

33 In this regard, the distinction between ‘ethnic minority’ and ‘foreign residents’ in Cambodia corresponds to the way Kymlicka differentiates ethnic groups, that is the distinction between ‘immigrant groups’ and ‘metics’.

34 It seems plausible to be concerned that this post-independence approach will be adopted when the issue of citizenship is being addressed with legislative action. ‘Khmer-Loeu’ and ‘Khmer Islam’ would be considered ‘appropriate’ citizens of Cambodia while ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese would be excluded from citizenship (Hawk 1995: 28).

35 Heder and Ledgerwood suggest that these terms have their origins in communist notions: “Cambodian Communists also promoted the use of the term chun-cheat to refer to the “nationalities” living within the boundaries of the Cambodian state, regardless of their country of nationality or citizenship. This usage had its roots in Leninist and Stalinist notions about “nationalities” within Russia and the constituent republics of the Soviet Union. Thus, chun-cheat pheak-tech referred to “national minorities” within the boundaries of Cambodia” (Heder and Ledgerwood 1996: 22).

36 It is incompatible with the scope of this paper to discuss the application of these ideas to Cambodia. Given the major concern of this paper on one hand, and the strong nationalism which marks Cambodia’s politics on the other hand, it seems plausible to focus not on the virtues of nationalism but on its liberal limits in Cambodia. However, it is believed that the relevance of nation-building – in particular: the importance of a sense of commonality and national identity among Cambodia’s citizens – could be shown easily. For example, after a civil war that came to be associated with the term ‘auto genocide’ (Chandler 1999: 3), Cambodia’s population continues to be deeply divided along the lines of political parties. Opposing points of view are frequently not only not considered but regarded as illegitimate (Roberts 2001: 205). Moreover, it is quite common that losers in elections do not abide by the result. A national election conducted in July 2003 remained inconclusive and no government was being formed until almost one year after citizens went to the polls. A good case could be made that this political deadlock is due to mistrust fuelled by the experience that leaders and groups do not abide by the results of elections, and that a common national identity would promote this sort of trust. An equally good case could be made regarding the importance of social justice. A recent UNDP report about Cambodia concludes that “there are signs that economic growth during the past decade has not produced any significant poverty reduction. Indeed, there are some signs that the situation is worsening” (UNDP 2004b: 14).

37 It is interesting to note that Walzer, in contrast to Kymlicka, considers it legitimate when states promote ‘thick’ cultures. However, he suggests very different policy recommendations depending on whether a state promotes a ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ culture. More precisely, he argues that the thicker a ‘national’ culture, the more likely it is that large groups of immigrants will have to be accommodated as national minorities rather than as ethnic groups. When the national culture is thinner, it is plausible to say that immigrant groups are less in need of subsidy and autonomy. In contrast, “ancient, territorially-based national cultures” will increasingly have to “make room for other sorts of thickness, and this will have to be room of a sort appropriate to the nation-state formation – with the same furnishings … as are provided for the national majority … In countries more like France, groups that are in fact immigrants may have to be dealt with as if they were national minorities” (Walzer 2001: pp. 150). Obviously, these policy recommendations with regard to ethnic groups are in even stronger opposition to practice in Cambodia than the ones suggested by Kymlicka, another reason to rely on the theoretical framework of the latter to analyze the claims of cultural diversity in Cambodia.

38 For a somewhat similar case, see Sullivan 1998. Sullivan examines the rights of the Orang Asli indigenous group in Malaysia, who are being squeezed off their traditional lands with the increasing population pressures. The Orang Asli are neither accorded special rights to their traditional lands, nor are they being accorded rights of equal treatment with other citizens.

39 The most notorious case was that of General Nuon Phea who claimed 1.200 hectares of indigenous ancestral land in exchange for some bags of salt. Villagers complained with the assistance of local NGOs to Rattanakiri provincial court which ruled against them. After Prime Minister Hun Sen and King Norodom Sihanouk intervened (Hun Sen approved a $35.000 compensation for Nuon Phea) the case came before the Appeals Court which invalidated the pre-existing 245 land titles sold by the hill tribe members. However, the court did not yet decide the ownership of the land (Kihara 2003: 12).

40 For a related case, see Taylor 1998, who discusses the loss of tribal lands due to deforestation in Thailand. Taylor promotes the adoption of an alternative development model which is based on the principles of social justices, empowerment and sustainability and which incorporates indigenous technical knowledge. Generally, his view is consistent with the argument of this paper.

41 For a case study of the involvement of transnational corporations in the exploitation of tribal lands, see Hyndman and Duhaylungsod 1998, who detail the effect of mining operations in Mindanao, Philippines.

42 It is worth mentioning that the World Bank has a history of backing controversial logging plans and operations in Cambodia, see Pyne 2004: 2.

43 An ancient burial ground in Rattanakiri is a case in point. It is taboo for members of the local community to visit the site after the funeral is over. However, the site has become a highly coveted tourist attraction which draws visitors from around the world. Even the Lonely Planet guide book advises travelers to visit the cemetery. Yet unwelcome visitors disrespecting the site do not make the community richer, but poorer. In order to calm down the disturbed spirits, even the poorest family must sacrifice animals, something they cannot afford. Members of the group wrote a letter to the provincial government, which is unwilling to take action. “The villagers will have to handle it themselves,” says Rattanakiri Governor Kham Khoeun. “Their thinking is not so clear or modern. There’s no way that visitors walking through that cemetery are affecting their culture” (quoted in Woodsome and Komsong 2003a: pp. 6).

44Unfortunately this project does not use the chance to recognize and accommodate cultural differences. Moreover, these buildings have a concrete structure and are supposed to provide space for the Commune Councils for many decades. It is part of the very rationale of decentralization to accommodate local differences and preferences and to give citizens a voice in affairs that affect them (NPRS 2002: 108). This is highly relevant when it comes to decisions of the design of the building that houses the genuine institution of local governance. However, no participation or consultation was conducted to inform the process of designing those buildings. The spirit of the entire project appears to be at odds with meaningful decentralization. And it appears to be even more at odds with the accommodation of cultural diversity. It is worth mentioning that significant funding for this project is provided by the Asian Development Bank.

45 It is interesting to note the tensions between individual and group-differentiated rights in this policy. In its Article 2, the policy states that “all persons belonging to Highland Peoples communities … shall be considered and treated as Cambodian citizens, with the
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