same rights and duties” (emphasis added). This formulation seems to follow an individualistic approach. However, the entire policy calls for group-specific rights, that is, rights given to citizens based on their membership in particular groups. It does not appear to be possible to justify the group-specific measures spelled out in this policy from the individualist perspective it takes in its Article 2. Other than that, the policy is generally in line with Kymlicka’s theory, insofar as it promotes group specific rights for minorities in addition to the common citizenship rights.
46 According to the IMC’s Permanent Secretary Seng Narong, stated during interviews on June 3 and July 14, 2003 at the IMC office in the Ministry of Rural Development.
47 However, this is not the only plausible way of looking at this initiative. One feature of this system is particularly worth mentioning: Bilingual education is provided for highland peoples’ children over three years with increasing proportions of Khmer language: 20% in the first year, 40 % in the second year, 70% in the third year, and 100% in the fourth year. Children are expected to move into mainstream schools in year four (Watt 2003: 91). During interviews, officials in the provincial department of education pointed out that this system is designed to respect and promote indigenous languages. However, the increasing proportion of Khmer language over only three years suggests that this arrangement serves linguistic integration rather than the promotion or perpetuation of indigenous culture. In Kymlicka’s terms, such an arrangement constitutes polyethnic rights rather than self-government rights and in effect promotes majority nation-building rather than minority nation-building.
48 For a critical overview, see Van Acker 2002.
49 According to the Royal Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, decentralization in Cambodia has three principal objectives:
Promotion of a pluralist participatory democracy at the local level
Promotion of a culture and practice of participatory development
Contribution to poverty reduction (NPRS 2002: 108).
50 The guiding questions can be found in the Appendix. Where not indicated otherwise, the reported information was gained through the author’s interviews and observations.
51 Particularly interesting information was gained by asking interviewees to rank different cultural groups in terms of its member’s level of access to health, education and participation, level of poverty, cost and level participation, level of understanding of commune affairs and the like. It lies in the nature of the project that the linguistic circumstances pose a special challenge to the conduct of meaningful interviews. Discussions relied on double translation and usually took place in Khmer, running the risk of failing the linguistic problems which are the very subject of this research project. However, interviews were conducted in a way that allowed for translation and clarification. The extent and intensity of participation suggests that interviews yielded meaningful and largely valid results.
52 Extensive transcripts of all interviews are with the author and will be made available on request.
53 As White quotes a member of the Brou indigenous group as saying “Khmer-Loeu was the name given to us in the past, this is not our real name. We are all people of Kampuchea … but I am Brou” (White 1996: 359). This group-differentiated understanding of citizenship is further exemplified in the cases of groups with members living on both sides of state-borders, such as the Jorai and the Phnong. Those groups refer to members on the Cambodian side of the border as “Jorai-Kampuchea” and “Phnong-Kampuchea” and to members on the other side of the border as “Jorai-Vietnam” and “Phnong-Vietnam” (White 1996: 359).
54 The remarkable exception (not only) in this regard was a community of Kuy people in a commune in Kratie province. Members seem to have integrated almost entirely into Khmer culture and no longer exhibit most of the characteristics that distinguish other groups of highlanders from the Khmer majority. Interviewees in this community did not recall the history of their group. Khmer is the first language learned by children. Most youngsters do not speak Kuy language. Although many people know some Kuy, most villagers prefer to use Khmer. Kuy is said to be used for ‘chit chat’ only.
55Interestingly, on various occasions it was stressed by the villagers that members of the respective group had contributed to the creation of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
56 The concept of ‘landed citizenship’ is borrowed from Borrows 2000.
57 Various studies note the same, such as White 1996: “Kuy men working together as soldiers in the local army base described how they were mocked by Khmer soldiers for using their own language and mothers described how their children were embarrassed to speak Kuy at home as they were afraid their Khmer friends would laugh at them. In such situations there is an intense pressure to suppress cultural identity to avoid conflict and shame, which is what in many senses these Kuy communities were found to do” (365).
58 Women rarely serve as elders and tend to have fewer rights. Unfortunately, matters of gender equality were not subject to the initial guiding questions. For more information see Berg and Phalith 2000, IMC 1996: 19, Sugiarti 1997: 26.
59 The Commune Councils are required to select Village Chiefs for each village in the commune. Previously, Village Chiefs were appointed by central authorities. The current laws do not specify the process by which Village Chiefs are determined but charges the Ministry of the Interior to issue procedures for the election of Village Chiefs. This has not happened yet and current Village Chiefs are still appointees of central authorities.
60 The only exception in this research was a number of schools in Rattanakiri that form the pilot projects for the governments’ EFA program mentioned earlier.
62 For example, if a potential donor considers financing a vaccination program, it is not clear whether members of indigenous groups will be available for the second shot. Without culturally sensitive ways of implementing such programs, it is not clear whether they will be available for even the first one. Similarly, if an NGO wants to contribute to a road they will be careful about doing so for indigenous groups. If the community decides to move the benefit of the road will diminish.
63 In line with these findings, a recent report by the UNICEF's Innocenti Research Center notes that the infant mortality rate in Rattanakiri is more than twice as high in the rest of the country (UNICEF 2003: pp. 9). According to the same report, only 24 percent of the children in north-eastern Cambodia were immunized against polio compared to 65 percent in the rest of the country. Regarding education, the report notes that “in Cambodia, indigenous children in the highlands and northern plains miss out on education due to a lack of schools, a shortage of qualified teachers and because the children are required to help with work on farms or around the home” (16).
64 ADB’s Participatory Poverty Assessment among indigenous groups notes: “The Phnong along with other ethnic minorities would like to learn Khmer but they would only encourage it if attempts were made by officials to learn their language” (ADB 2001b: 52).
65 In this regard, the same report quotes a Phnong villager as saying: “Even to communicate with you people we have to use someone who can speak both our languages. It is really difficult to understand one another … You were probably told that it would be easy to work with us because we listen to everything our leaders tell us, but these leaders have to be really good and understand us as well. Poor leaders cannot last in our community” (ADB 2001b: 52).
66 In order to facilitate the implementation of decentralization, Provincial and District Facilitation Teams (PFT/DFT) were established recently. The task of these team’s members is mostly to assist Councils with technical advice. In addition, Commune Clerks are assigned to each commune. They are appointed by, and work for, the Ministry of the Interior. The role of the Clerk is to assist the Council. Explicitly, his role is not to give orders to or monitor the activities of the Council.
67In one commune, the constituency as well as the Council is composed entirely of members of the same indigenous group (Kraveth). Yet deliberations among the Councilors take place in Khmer. This is due to the fact that the Council Clerk does not understand Kraveth language. Members of this Council stressed that language does not pose a major problem since the constituency is slowly learning Khmer. The Council stressed that communities in this commune had changed their way of life almost entirely. The constituency has settled and maintains plantations. Members of the Council and the clerk claimed that most people – except for the elderly – are happy to change, almost to the extent that they want to be better Khmers. Members of the Council see their role as assisting to determine what elements of tradition are reasonable to keep and which ones are not.
68 Interestingly, many political parties in Cambodia use the term ‘Khmer’ in their name (e.g. ‘Khmer Front Party’, ‘Khmer Angkor Party’, ‘Khmer Soul Party’, ‘Democratic Khmer Party’ and so on), rather than ‘Cambodia’. Among the platforms of various political parties in the 2003 election, only the one of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party contained a reference to indigenous peoples, promising – in a very general and somewhat paternalistic way – that the party would “take care of the hill tribe peoples and increase services to vulnerable groups” (Cambodia Daily 2003: 17). Since the liberation from the Khmer Rouge regime, the Cambodian People’s Party is firmly entrenched in the north-eastern provinces (Mc Donald-Gibson and Soleil: 2003, Woodsome and Kimsong 2003b: 13).
69 The following is a rather mild example of the problems associated with indigenous minorities in communes. Out of seven villages in one Council, only one village is inhabited by members of the Lun group, while the rest of the constituency is Khmer. Members of the indigenous village live about 12 km away from the Council, in a place which is very difficult to reach. They are considerably poorer than the rest of the commune, facing severe food insecurities and have virtually no access to the health center, school, or Commune Council. Representatives of this group indicated that they would need draft animals to work fields and improve their situation. In contrast, inhabitants of the other villages stressed the priority of building roads and bridges. None of those projects would have improved the situation of the indigenous village, while there would never be a majority for the Lun group’s priorities. Because of this situation, members voiced concern that decentralization might fail their group. They had asked the Commune Councilors for permission to cut some trees, in order to make boats and sell them in the market. The Council had agreed to grant the permission, because cutting the trees did not conflict with the majority’s development priorities. Given the ethnic composition of the constituency, it is unlikely that the Council would agree to indigenous development projects on the expense of the priorities of the large Khmer majority.
70 As was mentioned earlier, other concepts would single out also hill tribes as indigenous peoples in Cambodia and grand specific rights exclusively to them. Among those concepts are Benhabib’s theory, international instruments such as ILO Convention No. 169, and the draft Indigenous Declaration as well as policies of international organizations, such as World Bank’s Operational Directive 4.20.
71 For a sceptical answer to the question of whether Kymlicka’s theory can be applied to Asian states see He 1998.
72 The following statement by a Phnong man quoted in ADB’s Participatory Poverty Assessment gives an idea of how this is taking place: “Before, no one apart from us was living here, but now other poor people from areas a long way from here are coming to live. We are not opposed to them coming here, but they do not have the same ideas in relation to the area we live in. They do not take any notice of forest spirits, laughing them off; and their actions annoy the spirits and we all suffer. This means that fires get out of control and streams flood very quickly” (ADB 2001b: 53).
73 This disadvantage is mirrored in the following observation: Young people in Phnom Penh as well as in most parts of the country appear to be enthusiastically engaged in learning English, most likely because they feel that important opportunities are bound to organizations and institutions that operate in the English language. In contrast, interviews and observation during the field work suggest that young people among indigenous groups are equally enthusiastic about learning Khmer, likely because they feel that important opportunities are tight to organizations and institutions that operate in Khmer. Both phenomena represent important decisions of individuals to spend considerable time on learning a language other than their native tongue. And both represent rational choices, given the way the current linguistic provisions are set up. However, the difference indicates that the linguistic playing field is not even. An indigenous person will learn the local language first. After all, the command of local language is what is of relevance to participate in village affairs. However, in order to participate in society beyond the particular group this person will have to be able to function in Khmer. And there is no doubt that individual members of indigenous groups desire to participate in the larger Cambodian society, not least because they happens to be citizens of this country and there is something at stake in participating in its institutions. If indigenous persons want to capitalize on the same opportunities that so many young Cambodians are aiming at they will have to learn a third language, which is English. If important opportunities are associated with the command of the English language, then the indigenous person will have to learn three languages. And there is nothing that suggests that members of indigenous groups do not desire to learn English and capitalize on associated opportunities. It is likely that those opportunities are becoming more important due to increased tourism, the operations of international organizations and exposure to markets. Using those opportunities, everything else being equal, will be significantly more difficult for indigenous persons since education is less likely to be accessible to them compared to member of the Cambodian society whose native language is Khmer.
74 Another indication is that many local development organizations use the term ‘Khmer’ in their name, rather than ‘Cambodia’.
75 It is well known that such processes have taken place all over the Americas. Similar processes of settlement and exploitation occurred in Asian countries, too, but are not as well known. For a number of case studies involving Southeast Asia, see Magallanes and Hollick 1998. For case studies of Bangladesh and Indonesia, see Penz 1993. For a case study involving the state of Bihar in India, see Devalle 1993.
76 A report recently launched by the group Forest Trends in Geneva shows that the vast potential for indigenous peoples to help curb the destruction of forests is being overlooked by the international community, see Forest Trends 2004.
77 Chandler has called this fate of three centuries of violence and external control the tragedy of Cambodian history, see Chandler 1991.
78 In this regard, it is worth mentioning a more general point. Unlike the states on which Kymlicka’s theory is based, security concerns make the adoption of minority rights less likely in many Asian states. “In Asia,” notes Kymlicka “this fear [that minorities will collaborate with neighbouring enemies or hostile external powers] remains pervasive, due to the presence of potentially hostile neighbours and the history of collaboration … Countries that feel threatened by neighbours are unlikely to have the sense of security needed to share power with their own minorities” (Kymlicka 2003: 36). Obviously, this observation has immediate relevance with regard to ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia. To some extent, it is valid with regard to national minorities as well, because members of various indigenous groups in Cambodia live along or even on both sides of contested state-borders. Moreover, the north-eastern territory was an autonomous region under the Khmer Rouge and various hill tribes came to be seen as potentially disloyal to the Cambodian government. However, Kymlicka’s distinction between sub-state nations and indigenous peoples can help to paint a more differentiated picture. Indigenous peoples threaten states far less than sub-state nations, because the latter demand their own states while the former do not. In contrast to other Asian countries, there are no sub-state nations in Cambodia. Consequently, security concerns are less likely to prevent the adoption of a multination concept of decentralization in Cambodia.
79 A number of ‘sticking points’ have been discussed among the political parties to solve the one year long political stalemate following the inconclusive election on 27 July 2003. The most problematic disagreements have proven to be the creation of a Ministry of Immigration and Naturalization and the border treaties signed with Vietnam during the Vietnamese occupation (Fawthrop and Sokheng 2004: 1; Cambodia Daily 2004b: 1).
80 It does not matter much whether or not the intention of each of these measures actually is to promote a Khmer national identity. For example, it is likely that settlement policies and commercial exploitation are driven to a significant extend by the prospect of personal gain for ruling elites.
81 Moreover, Cambodia is a very rural country and literacy does not yet play a central role for citizens and their opportunities. Accordingly, disadvantages based on the neglect of minority languages are not felt as strongly as in more advanced and modern societies.
82 Among others, these initiatives include the establishment of the IMC and the draft ‘General Policy for Highland Peoples Development’, the inclusion of culturally tailored curricula within the EFA program, the arrangement of bilingual education in selected schools, a provision for communal indigenous title in the 2001 Land Law, and the creation of a national task force to implement such titles.
83 For the history of these campaigns see Hickey 1982a and Hickey 1982b. For documentations of its more recent manifestations see Human Rights Watch 2002 and Amnesty International 2004.
84 Levy distinguishes between three modes of incorporating indigenous law: common law, customary law, and self-government (the term ‘self-government’ does not match its usage here. In the terminology of this thesis, all three of Levy’s modes of incorporation would be described as self-government). In the case of common law incorporation, indigenous law is not recognized quite as law, but as a social situation which can trigger the law of the wider society (Levy 2000: 299-301). Customary law incorporation gives more status to indigenous law, since it is incorporated as a separate system of customary law parallel to the system of common law. Self-government accords the greatest status, because it respects indigenous law analogous to the respect associated with the laws of foreign states and in effect grants territorial sovereignty. That one model accords greater status to indigenous law than another does not mean that it is preferable from the point of view of indigenous peoples (Levy 2000: 308). It is consistent with the above findings to assume that not self-government, but common law and customary law incorporation or a mixture of both would best match the situation of hill tribes in Cambodia. However, the answer to this question requires further research with the active involvement of indigenous groups.
85 This is not out of context with the situation in Cambodia, and the Law on Administration of Communes provides for the re-determination of these boundaries. Article 89 states that the Minister of Interior may request to modify the boundaries to proceed with the election of Commune Councils for the second mandate.
86 ILO Convention No. 169 explicitly specifies three instances where indigenous peoples should have full management and control: special vocational training programs (Article 22.3), community-based health services (Article 25.1), and education programs (Article 27.2) (cp. ILO 2000a).
87 This can mean many things: Given that indigenous groups make up the poorest segments of society, operationally relevant strategies to address the poverty of indigenous groups should be included in Cambodia’s NPRS. Development projects in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples should built on the positive qualities of indigenous cultures, such as a sophisticated knowledge of the natural resources, close attachment to the natural environment, capacity to collectively mobilize labor and resources, and a strong sense of ethnic identity. Greater technical assistance and training is needed, where possible conducted in the native language and incorporating indigenous knowledge and technology. Support is needed to create and promote indigenous organizations and enhance their ability to successfully design and manage development agendas for local communities. More emphasis must be placed on the informed participation of indigenous people in the development process – including the design, implementation and monitoring of local development programs. Where they reside, indigenous peoples should be seen as key players in rural development programs and management of fragile ecosystems.