The lynching of Nguyen Yaing Ngoc

[On the night of 15 February 2014, a dispute over a minor traffic accident in Phnom Penh escalated into a racial attack in which an ethnically Vietnamese Cambodian, Nguyen Yaing Ngoc, was beaten to death by a racist mob screaming about “yuon” – a term of abuse for Vietnamese widely used by the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party.

[The two letters below were sent on 18 February. Neither was published.

[“Nguyen Yaing Ngoc” was the victim’s name as printed in initial reports in the English-language press. Subsequently, with no explanation I have seen, some reports have changed the name to “Nguyen Vann Chean”.]

To the Phnom Penh Post:

Even when the CNRP is trying to distance itself from the racist violence that its rhetoric has encouraged, the party spurs prejudice and therefore further violence. As quoted in your Tuesday article, the CNRP calls for human rights, love and tolerance regardless of whether people “are Khmer or foreigners”.

So it seems that the CNRP is firmly behind the idea that anyone who is not Khmer is a foreigner, no matter how many generations their families may have lived in Cambodia. If the CNRP should come to government, does this mean that all ethnically Vietnamese Cambodians will be deported as illegal immigrants? What about Chinese Cambodians (1% of the population, according to Wikipedia)? And to where will the CNRP deport the Kuy, Pnong, Jarai and other minority peoples?

To the Cambodia Daily:

Both your Monday and Tuesday articles on the murder of Nguyen Yaing Ngoc use the formulation that the word “yuon” applied to people “can be derogatory in some contexts”.

Are there any contexts in modern Cambodia in which people can be called “yuon” in a non-derogatory (and non-hostile) way? When Nguyen Yaing Ngoc heard the word, he tried to flee. He didn’t stop to check whether the racist murderers were using the term affectionately.

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