Inter-Ethnic / Indigenous Peace Building

Goal: Promote realization of citizenship rights for KK in Cambodia

Project objectives: 

  • Khmer Krom (KK) persons enjoy their rights as Cambodian citizens without discrimination, including their rights to have proper citizenship documentation and equal access to education.
  • Laws and policies are revised to ensure formal recognition of KK persons and respect for their rights, and are properly implemented and complied with by national and local authorities, with the result that KK persons feel secure and safe living in Cambodia.
  • The general population, and local and national authorities, gain increased awareness of the KK community and of their rights

Rational: The Khmer Krom are an ethnic minority group that originates from the Mekong Delta region. Heavily persecuted in Vietnam, the Cambodian authorities have stated that KK are entitled to citizenship rights in the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”). However, no clear legal and administrative regulations exist on how KK can obtain identity cards, resulting in approximately 20 to 30 per-cent of KK currently living in Cambodia without them. The aim of phase one of this project was to shed light on a largely ignored minority group and use the information gathered to provide a basis on which to conduct advocacy to ensure KK enjoy unimpeded access to citizenship rights in Cambodia. Indeed, the results suggested that future activities to raise awareness among KK of the citizenship rights to which they are entitled, to advocate for clearer processes for obtaining documentation, as well as a more general advocacy campaign targeting the discrimination they face from the general public and authorities, could make a significant difference to the living situation of KK in Cambodia, as well as responding to an existing demand in the communities concerned.

The survey revealed that discrimination faced by KK (who are often believed to be Vietnamese and suffer discrimination on that basis) remains a significant problem; this is symptomatic not only of discrimination against KK, but of broader discriminatory attitudes towards ethnic Vietnamese persons, which remain widespread in Cambodia. When asked to identify the most important issue to be solved in their current living conditions, 42% of respondents listed “discrimination from authorities and local Khmer.” As a result, the proposed activities include an awareness-raising campaign to increase understanding of KK rights among the general public and authorities, including radio shows and the publication of stories and experiences of KK to highlight the issues they face. Some awareness-raising activities will also address discrimination against Vietnamese persons, given the link with discrimination against Khmer Krom.

One of the survey’s most striking findings was a lack of awareness of on the part of the KK community, both as to their rights under Cambodian law, and the procedures for obtaining identity documents. 61.3% of respondents had not received any information about obtaining an ID card; 70.4% of respondents were unaware of the new electronic identity cards; and when asked whether KK get Khmer citizenship when they come to live in Cambodia, 28.8% of respondents gave the incorrect response “no” while 39.8% replied “don’t know.” This suggests that there remains a widespread lack of awareness among KK as to their rights, which likely contributes to their failing to apply for and obtain citizenship. Local authorities interviewed also demonstrated a lack of understanding as to the rights enjoyed by KK. Nevertheless, almost two-thirds of KK respondents felt that the issues they face could be resolved through advocacy or mobilizing in their communities. The results suggested that the lack of awareness of the legal rights of KK may be due to the lack of clarity and certainty in the legal framework governing access to citizenship documents. As a result, the proposed activities include a training session on advocacy skills and the legal framework for KK from target provinces, which may be replicated when they return to their communities to increase the sustainability of the action; the direct provision of assistance for KK in applying for identity cards; and public forums involving local and national authorities, as well as direct engagement and advocacy with national authorities, to lobby for improved clarity of the legal framework, directly with local authorities to promote better outcomes for Khmer Krom in practice.

Gender: Participants in project activities will include both males and females from KK communities. During the survey conducted on KK identity cards, some respondents indicated that one reason they were not able to apply to obtain identity cards is because they needed to stay at home to look after children, suggested a gendered aspect of the identity card issue that would benefit from being further explored. Leadership positions in KK communities are primarily held by men. Women have only limited access to the education system and experience high drop-out rates after primary school, in part because of the limited educational opportunities for KK in Vietnam where many KK currently present in Cambodia grew up. As a result, gender can be expected to become a significant aspect when planning advocacy activities. The project will endeavour to ensure women are well-represented (at least 30%) among target groups, to increase their awareness of their rights, including their rights as KK and as women within their own communities, and to help promote their active involvement and leadership in future advocacy activities in their communities. In addition, we will attempt to identify and engage with female representatives of local and provincial authorities as much as possible, however women are not well represented in Cambodian politics and therefore it is unlikely that we will be able to achieve parity in this endeavour.


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