An official at the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh has said that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) use of racially charged rhetoric to win political points is damaging to the relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam and stokes fear among the ethnic Vietnamese people in the country.
Nguyen Chi Dzung, head of citizen protection and legal affairs of the embassy’s consular section, said in an email on Friday that the CNRP’s consistent use of the word “yuon”—a word derogatorily used to describe Vietnamese people—is “capitalizing the ethnic issue for political gains.”
“I am of the opinion that nowadays, in a globalized era, this act is politically not correct and damages domestic, neutral and peaceful flagship of Cambodia and good [relationship] with [its neighbor],” Mr. Dzung said. “For Vietnamese ethnics in Cambodia, they are worried of being discriminated and threaten[ed].”
“We do recommend our citizens to be on high alert about the development of situation before and after election day,” Mr. Dzung added. “They [should] consider avoiding unnecessary travels and to avoid crowds.”
While the CNRP has repeatedly said that it is the party’s policy not to use inflammatory language against the Vietnamese, opposition leader Sam Rainsy has not been shy about employing the word yuon in his stump speeches since his return from self-imposed exile on July 19.
Mr. Rainsy on Thursday defended his use of the word by explaining that it “may not be politically correct but it is not derogatory.”
In Meanchey district’s Chbar Ampov II commune, where storefronts and coffee shops sport Vietnamese signs reflecting the commune’s large ethnic Vietnamese community, the residents living there say they are worried about the anti-Vietnamese sentiment being spread by the opposition.
“I do feel fearful because I am scared that they will use violence on me, and I am scared they will kill me,” said Kim Lien, 44, a coffee shop owner who has lived in Cambodia for more than 20 years.
In the event of any violence, her husband, who is Khmer, will lock her in the house while they stock up on food, she said. Ms. Lien also admitted that she had arrived here illegally after marrying in Vietnam.
“If every Vietnamese in Cambodia has to leave, we will agree to go,” she said. “I am not angry about this because I came here illegally to begin with.”
However, Chan Srey Nath, 68—whose Vietnamese name is Mien Thi Sa—did not make such concessions. She said her family has been in Cambodia since 1983 in search of a better life, and that they are now legal immigrants who are registered to vote.
“When Cambodian people use the word yuon at me, I get very, very angry but I don’t know what to do. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve never said such rude things to Khmers, so why do they use bad words at me?” said Ms. Srey Nath, who owns a small grocery shop, adding that the CPP has her vote.
“If they [the new government] don’t make me suffer, I will still live here. But if it is a struggle, I will return to my country,” she said. “But not yet.”
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