News / Asia

In Cambodia, Immigrant's Death Sparks Reform Debate

Cambodian rights workers are calling on the government to reform its immigration policies following the mob beating death of a Vietnamese man.
Activists say the death of Nguyen Van Chyen, who was killed in Phnom Penh following a traffic accident last month, underscores an underlying problem of racism in Cambodia.
Some analysts say immigration reform could help reduce tensions and dampen anti-Vietnamese sentiment.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licado, told VOA's Khmer service he agrees that better immigration enforcement is key.
“In order to prevent problems, I think Cambodia has to strengthen law enforcement, especially in immigration law and laws on nationality,” he said. "In order to be naturalized as a Cambodian, a foreigner should be required to learn the Khmer language and understand Cambodia’s culture."
Chea Vannath, an independent analyst, told the Khmer service that the enforcement of immigration will reduce the problems.
“So, until Cambodia takes the actions, then we can control the people feeling," she said. "Meaning that [immigrants] come, no matter what nationality, they live in Cambodia legally."
One point of contention is the use of the Khmer word "yuon," which the crowd shouted ahead of Nguyen Van Chyen's beating death. Am Sam Ath said the word is customary, though not necessarily racist.
Not everyone agrees, with many saying the word is a slur for Vietnamese people.
The distinction is important, said Keat Chantharith, a spokesman for the national police and a ruling party supporter, because the word is used by leaders of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
He accuses Sam Rainsy's party of using the word to stoke anti-Vietnamese sentiment for political gain.
“In fact, immigration police and the national police are trying hard to fulfill their work in immigration,” he said. “They have pushed law enforcement, registration work and management work for immigrants.”
Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Rescue Party, denies the allegations, saying the opposition is merely pushing for better immigration enforcement and does not endorse violence.
“The CPP has not taken action on the issues and has been indulgent,” he said.
Vietnamese troops ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and began a decade-long occupation of the country. There have been sporadic reports of violence against Vietnamese in Cambodia in the past two decades.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Alan Smith from: Florida
March 20, 2014 11:05 AM
What happened to the khmer people is discreminated and executed by vietnamese for years and is still going on now. Why no one say anything about it? They killed the monks, innocent khmer krom people...
In Response

by: Jarrod Brown from: Hawai'i
March 21, 2014 3:16 PM
It seems you are being selective here, Alan, and giving a clear red herring fallacy. You are ignoring the anti-Vietnamese pogroms under Lon Nol in Phnom Penh, the execution of ethnic Vietnamese (and Chams) under the Khmer Rouge, and the Khmer Rouge incursions. You are also ignoring the Khmer Rouge incursions into Vietnam like the massacre of Ba Chuc. However, these incidents of violence and the present day discrimination faced by the Khmer Kron in Vietnam are irrelavent to whether ethnic Vietnamese born and raised in Cambodia should have citizenship or be subjected to violence in the present. A red herring is an informal fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. I think your comment is an example of this sort of informal fallacy.

by: Jarrod Brown from: Hawaii
March 20, 2014 1:40 AM
Nguyen Van Chyen he was not an immigrant. He was born in Cambodia and lived his entire life in Cambodia according to the interview given by his ethnic Khmer wife. Many ethnic Vietnamese have spent there entire life in Cambodia but are often seen as "immigrants" when in fact they are and should be considered Cambodian citizens.
In Response

by: Jarrod Brown from: Hawai'i
March 21, 2014 2:41 PM
Aren't the Jarai the same? It seems to me, Asher, you are confusing the Khmer ethnicity with the nation-state of Cambodia. Nguyen Van Chyen, like many ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, was born there, spoke fluent Khmer and had a Khmer wife. Khmers are not the only people in Cambodia, and wishing to maintain one's cultural identity does not seem a reason to deny citizenship.
In Response

by: Asher Black from: Sydney
March 20, 2014 11:44 PM
Yes Jarrod, ethnic Vietnamese should be considered Cambodian citizens. Except they do not self-identify that way, they live in Vietnamese-dominated areas and send their children to Vietnamese-language schools. Why would they want to consider themselves Cambodian when the Vietnamese school curriculum teaches their youth that Cambodia is a poorer and more backward country?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs