August 21, 2016

Archived news: What's in a Name? A Not So Neighborly Debate

Son Sann, president of the BLDP, has called for all Vietnamese in Cambodia to be expelled, charging that if Vietnamese men are allowed to marry Cambodian women, the Khmer race will die out by the year 2042.
"This is not a question of racism and chauvinism, but of the survival of our nation as a Khmer nation," Son Sann said.

Vietnamese soldiers entering Phnom Penh in January 1979. Photo source: Wikipedia

Sara Colm, The Phnom Penh Post
Fri, 6 November 1992

Cambodia's age-old antipathy with Vietnam-and even the words used by Cambodians to refer to their neighbors to the east-is increasingly emerging as a campaign issue.

UNTAC chief Yasushi Akashi has publicly rebuffed Khmer faction leaders, particularly the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (the Khmer Rouge), for using the word "yuon" in reference to Vietnamese people.

"The use of pejorative terms such as 'yuon,' especially by an organization aspiring to the attributes of statehood, is unseemly and objectionable in public discourse," Akashi wrote in a letter to Khieu Samphan, president of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK), on Aug. 31.

In official statements the State of Cambodia government uses the word "Vietnam" to refer to both the country and its people.

"They don't use 'yuon' because they're friends with Vietnam," said a Cambodian who works for a non-governmental organization in Phnom Penh.

But leaders of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) and Democratic Kampuchea say the word "yuon" is not a racial slur, but comes from the Chinese word Yun Nan-meaning "southern kingdom."

The Masters' Tea

Despite the fact that a 1978 Khmer Rouge document, the "Black Paper," defines "yuon" as meaning "savage," Democratic Kampuchea spokesman Tep Khunnal said recently that the group uses the word in the sense that it was defined in a 1967 Khmer-language dictionary published by the Buddhist Institute.

"On page 955 of that dictionary, the word 'yuon' is defined as a nationality or national of Tonkin, Annam, and of Cochinchina," Tep said. "The Cambodian people know the people living in that area as yuon. [Democratic Kampuchea] uses the word in that understanding, according to the definition in that dictionary, which is well respected in Cambodia."

A official of a prominent Cambodian political party, who asked not to be named, also asserted that "yuon" is not a derogatory word.

"If you want to know what what we really call Vietnamese to insult them," he said, "there are other words that we use."

"We call them A-sakaye dong, [coconut shell-the prefix 'A-' before a word gives it a derogatory connotation], because Vietnamese float down the rivers into Cambodia, hiding under the surface of the water by wearing a coconut on their head, in order to invade and rob our people," he said.

"Or else we call them A-sratope jake, [banana bark]-which means the rag tag people-they're so poor they wear clothes made of banana leaves. We also call them yuon kratope [rags], referring to them doing the low jobs like mopping the floors."

Some Cambodians refer to red ants as sramaoij yuon (yuon ants), one Cambodian said, "because they bother us."

Many Khmer refer to the story of the "Masters' Tea"-which they retell as historical fact-when Vietnamese invaders purportedly used the heads of Cambodians to perch their tea kettles on.

Cambodians also have a saying: "Khmae men jaul kabuen; Yuon men jaol put."

(Cambodians never abandon rules; "Yuon" never abandon trickery).

"That means that the Vietnamese keep a bad attitude in their mind, now and in the past," explained a Cambodian. "Even if at the moment they are good, they still have bad motives in their minds. Like when they came and stayed in Cambodia in the past, and later said it's part of Vietnam. The saying warns us about the Vietnamese, that this might happen again, as in the past."

Vietnamese women are also not to be trusted, according to many Cambodians. "They marry our leaders, and then start trying to control them, according to the interests of Vietnam," said a schoolteacher, who listed off the names of officials in the Hun Sen government that he said had Vietnamese wives.

Sordid Selling of Girls 

The "Black Paper" describes the "sordid selling of Vietnamese girls" in the "manoeuvres and methods used by the Vietnamese to annex and swallow Kampuchea's territory in the past."

According to many Cambodians' telling of history, in the 17th century Cambodian King Cheychetha II-who had previously requested Vietnam's support against Thai encroachment in Cambodia-married a Vietnamese princess.

In return, the Cambodian king allowed Vietnam to set up trade in 1623 in the city of Prey Nokor-which is now known as Ho Chi Minh City-but was then part of Cambodia.

"At the intervention of his [Vietnamese] wife, Cheychetha II agreed," the Khmer Rouge state in the Black Paper. "Tens of thousands of Vietnamese nationals then came and settled themselves in that region. . .They expelled the Khmer people living there and forced them to move to the more remote regions."

In a recent article in the KPNLF Bulletin, Gen. Thach Reng gives an accounting of "Historical Events Concerning the Yuon-Khmer Crisis."

In 1645 and again in 1653, the Khmer king attempted to claim Prey Nokor back, according to Thach. "The Yuons refused to leave the place," Thach wrote, "and in 1748 the entire Khmer land fell under Yuon control."

Explaining the present-day animosity between Vietnamese and Khmers, Veng Sereyvuth, foreign affairs advisor to FUNCINPEC, the party of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, said:

"It's history. We just cannot mix with these people. The Vietnamese are warmongers."

Cambodians continue to refer to the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam-where ethnic Khmers still live-as Kampuchea Krom (lower Cambodia).

Border disputes in the 1970s between Cambodia and Vietnam by both Lon Nol and Pol Pot were in part an effort to retake Kampuchea Krom.

"We had to kill the Vietnamese [in the 1970s] because otherwise we wouldn't be here today," said a Cambodian who formerly worked for the SOC government.

"Many were armed because the [Vietnam] war was going on at the time.

"Today, many people think the Vietnamese here receive grants from their government, and guns too," he added. "We think many of them are armed."

Charles Twining, the U.S. envoy in Phnom Penh, has been widely quoted as saying his worst nightmare is to see Vietnamese bodies floating down the Mekong River again-referring to thousands of Vietnamese who were killed and had their bodies dumped in the river during the Lon Nol period.

Violence against ethnic Vietnamese has flared up again in recent months, with the kidnapping of eight Vietnamese in Kompong Thom in early October, the killing of Vietnamese fishermen in Koh Kong and Kompong Chhnang in October and April respectively, and the massacre of eight Vietnamese-including two children-in Kampot on July 21.

Soldiers in Disguise?

At least three Cambodian political parties have charged that Vietnamese troops remain in Cambodia-disguised as civilians or Phnom Penh army troops-and that Vietnam is pursuing a deliberate policy of sending Vietnamese settlers to Cambodia to influence the elections.

Son Sann, president of the BLDP, has called for all Vietnamese in Cambodia to be expelled, charging that if Vietnamese men are allowed to marry Cambodian women, the Khmer race will die out by the year 2042.

"This is not a question of racism and chauvinism, but of the survival of our nation as a Khmer nation," Son Sann said.

The Khmer Rouge have insisted they will not join the peace process until Vietnamese troops and settlers are removed from Cambodia.

"Apart from the Vietnamese forces, there are Vietnamese settlers who were sent to Cambodia in a systematic and planned manner in the past more than 13 years in the framework of Vietnam's 'Vietnamization' policy," Democratic Kampuchea President Khieu Samphan stated in a letter to UNTAC chief Akashi on Sept. 23.

"These Vietnamese settlers. . . have expropriated rich lands, rice fields, lakes, rivers, etc. of the Cambodian people, who have been forced to abandon their houses and villages," Khieu Samphan said. "By their true nature, they are part and parcel of the Vietnamese occupying forces."

Some Cambodian political parties have also charged that the State of Cambodia has issued identity cards to Vietnamese nationals, in an effort to sway the upcoming elections in their favor.

To resolve these issues, as well as charges that Vietnam has further encroached into Cambodian territory over the last 13 years, UNTAC has proposed to set up technical advisory committees on foreign residents in Cambodia and its territorial boundaries.

But one UNTAC administrator, who asked not to be named, says the U.N. is skirting the Vietnamese issue, thus strengthening the Khmer Rouge's call for radical solutions.

UNTAC should not allow former members of the Vietnamese armed forces to resettle in Cambodia during the transitional period before elections, she said.

"There's no way we can tolerate a racial crusade against Vietnamese people," she said. "At the same time there are concerns about certain groups of Vietnamese here-those with weapons, and former soldiers who have returned to do business or work as diplomats.

"If UNTAC with all its resources can't [screen former Vietnamese military]," she added, "what's to prevent the Khmer Rouge from doing it their way-rounding everyone up or killing some to scare off others?"

The Vietnamese government has repeatedly said it withdrew all troops in September, 1989. In addition, U.N. officials say the Cambodian factions have yet to prove the existence of Vietnamese soldiers in Cambodia, nor have they been detected by mobile U.N. investigative teams or at border checkpoints.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
"The Vietnamese government has repeatedly said it withdrew all troops in September, 1989. In addition, U.N. officials say the Cambodian factions have yet to prove the existence of Vietnamese soldiers in Cambodia, nor have they been detected by mobile U.N. investigative teams or at border checkpoints."

=Well...Tell me what did the U.N. officials do for Cambodia before and after 1989. In 2016 Cambodia still have the same dictatorial Vietcong slave puppet government for the past 30 years and thank in part to UNTAC chief Yasushi Akashi who plays the race card and fails to see Cambodia and Cambodian people are the victim of the Vietcong naked aggression! Yasushi Akashi is the most disgrace and corrupted among the UN officials who fail to carry out UN mandate...

August 21, 2016 at 2:00 PM
Blogger Anonymous Anonymous said...
Well...nobody can deny that with the help of China and Soviet Union during the cold war the Vietcong government was able to install a Vietcong slave puppet government in Cambodia since 1979! As long as Cambodia still maintain the current Vietcong slave puppet government and there is no point of arguing on any issues because the Vietcong slave puppet government under AH gook Hun Xen Vietcong slave dictator leadership will come out and cover and shield the Vietcong government of any criticism and wrong doing!

Cambodia must have real government by the Cambodian people to find the truth and the extend of the Vietcong government involvement in the killing and imprisonment of Cambodian people!

Kim Ea said...

How many time,i said UN representatives in the 1991b treaty are the most incompetent, irrelevant and corrupt teams ? They even did not really understanding our political functioning or our faith as a gruesome victims of the communist killer machine . Some of them have full mind of socialist ideology and just came in to help pushed or preserved socialist doctrine in this part world . They tended to embraced or automatic accepted with no reserve this pinhead and father of Khmer socialist ideology Sihanouk and Yuon ( this word is not derogatory like most pinhead ignorance foreigner accused Khmer said )Hanoi, convert behind the scene pushed through for achieving their goal . It was shameful that UN world used this socialist con in their make up apparatus team to achieve the fake goal of democratic and declared successful treaty . All Khmer and world organization, did do one wrongful thought and procured a miserably of a failure treaty in the name shake of big UN organization in 1991 . This so far was not a flamboyance successful and tenure treaty like every one thought but Just propelled most pinhead opportunists and arrogant blood sucker and gruesome communist bloody hand only can got more benefit from this treaty . Khmer citizen as a whole were victim on all these sources of crimes under this irresponsible treaty . The tears run down ,blood spilling incessantly , devastation unimaginable , broken families cried foul and in-discriminated used of draconian forces to robed citizen lands and properties are rampant under these blind eyes or seem complete acceptable by these malicious gossip signatories witness countries of this treaty . We Khmer put a big hope and completely dependent on these highest diplomatic representatives countries witness as a sure safeguard of this treaty for our splendid future , but so far this treaty was not far different that put our Khmer lives back to the hand of the same slaughters communist machine of Sihanouk and their cronies Hun Sen former Pol Pot and Khmer RumDos . This is not a quagmire and surprised of hope but a form of pure incompetent and irresponsible of these UN teams . Please stop trust this UN any more, they did everything for good looking but not a good deed of future generation . We Khmer are so unfortunate ,we put all our trust and hope on these irrelevant world organization .