New research unveils life experiences of Cambodia’s ethnic minorities
Two local NGOs, CDP and KdK, are calling for greater understanding of the lives of ethnic minorities in Cambodia and improved responses to their needs. Cambodian Defenders Project and Kdei Karuna will both release new research at a public launch in Phnom Penh on 2 June 2014, unveiling the largely hidden life experiences of ethnic minorities. Research by Cambodian Defenders Project (CDP) focused on the perpetration of sexual violence against four ethnic minority groups during the Khmer Rouge period, a form of violence commonly used in conflict situations to punish and control populations. Research by Kdei Karuna (KdK) investigated the entire life stories of Vietnamese people living in Kampong Chhnang, mainly before Khmer Rouge regime.
Both research reports reveal histories of marginalization, as well as resistance and resilience of minority groups. CDP interviewed over 100 respondents across six provinces about the experiences of sexual violence against Vietnamese, Khmer Krom and Cham or Khmer Islam peoples during the Khmer Rouge. The research also looked at the continuing impacts for survivors and their coping strategies. While previous research has found that agents of the Khmer Rouge subjected the general population to forced marriage, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, there has been virtually no information gathered about ethnic minorities. With the ECCC’s potential widening of the scope of prosecutions to include gender-based violence crimes by Khmer Rouge leaders, this report presents timely findings on the common and distinct experiences of these four minority groups, including acts of genocide. The report calls for improved responses to survivors’ ongoing needs for justice, support services and memorialization of those passed.
“It is critical that we expose sexual violence as a tactic of conflict and break the silence about these crimes to give survivors the support and justice they need”, argues Mr DUONG Savorn, Project Coordinator at CDP. “This research aims to finally give ethic minority survivors of sexual violence a voice. Their stories need to be told, not only to reconcile the past but also to address impacts of past and continuing violence and marginalization”, adds Dr Rochelle Braaf, Lead Researcher on the project.
In their research, KdK individually interviewed thirty-two Vietnamese respondents from two floating villages in Kampong Chhnang to capture memories of their lives. Very little data is available about “the Vietnamese” in Cambodia and the diverse sub-groups that are subsumed under this label. The results of this research will shed light on the migration histories and living conditions of the Vietnamese group in the research’s targeted communities. Ethnic Vietnamese were forcibly expelled before and during the Khmer Rouge Regime. The research seeks to understand how these minority communities emerged and evolved in Cambodia and what their living conditions were like before their deportation. This study is the first step to collect stories and to raise awareness about this ethnic group. Further in-depth research will be valuable for implementing next steps.
“I believe once people understand the importance of diversity in a society, they could live together with tolerance, dignity and harmony, so everything must start from us”, states Tim Minea, Executive Director at KdK. “This research aims to disclose the history and experience of a Vietnamese group who were born and lived on Tonlé Sap river, contributing to more understanding of Vietnamese ethnic minority groups in Cambodia”, explains Ly Rattanak, Project Officer at KdK.
The two research reports being launched were funded by the Civil Peace Service of the German aid program, GIZ, to explore and raise awareness of the lives of ethnic groups in this country. The full report and a 4 page research summary of Sexual violence against ethnic minorities during the Khmer Rouge regime are available in hard copy from Cambodian Defenders Project and online.
The full report of Life before expulsion - Community history from Vietnamese minorities in Kampong Chhnang is available in hard copy from Kdei Karuna organization.
Name: BRAAF Rochelle, Research Coordinator, Cambodian Defenders Project
Tel: 078 292 413
Name: Rattanak Ly, Project Officer, Kdei Karuna organisation
Tel: 077 638 423