Racism is more than a word – a reply to Sam Rainsy

[This was sent to the Cambodia Daily on 5 March 2014 but not published. It was written in response to a letter by Sam Rainsy printed in the Daily on 5 March attacking my 27 February letter (see “Scapegoating is more than a word” on this blog).]

Sam Rainsy’s letter yesterday adds nothing to his original article (Daily, 26 February). He continues trying to escape from criticism of his party’s racist behaviour by debating the meaning of a single word.

As I pointed out in my previous letter, the important question is not whether Sam Rainsy calls Cambodians of Vietnamese ancestry “yuon” or “Vietnamese”. What matters is that he singles them out and blames them as a group for real or imagined problems of the country. That is racism, regardless of whether the words used are polite or rude. It would still be racist if CNRP demonstrators switched from shouting “yuon” to shouting “Vietnamese” at Cambodian police.

I assume that Sam Rainsy does not regard the Cambodia Daily, the United Nations or Amnesty International as a pro-CPP propagandists. Here is part of an article that appeared in the Daily two days before the general election:

“… this is not the first election campaign in which Mr. Rainsy … has combined nationalist and anti-Vietnamese sentiment in an effort to build popular support for his party.

“Since his first campaign as an opposition candidate for prime minister as the leader of the SRP in 1998, Mr. Rainsy has taken the most pressing issues of the day and grafted onto them fears of the Vietnamese menace to Cambodian society.

“During protesting against the results of the 1998 election, which were won by Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP, at least four Vietnamese nationals were killed in what is believed to have been ethnically motivated violence.

“The U.N. and Amnesty International called on opposition politicians to stop using inflammatory language against the Vietnamese.”

That was real (and good) advice, not false controversy.

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