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Different Peoples Can Live Together, We Have to Learn to Do It Better

By: Norbert Klein Posted: December-21-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 695

This week, we had several pieces of information related to various different types of relationships between people of different ethnic backgrounds or nationalities. Relationships on the basis of geography and history, or because of emigration. Sometimes a strange mixture of such different reasons – trying to escape from political oppression or dire economic need, and other reasons. There are people who voluntarily move to a different country trying to realize a dream. But again, the information which led to such decisions may have been insufficient – or even outright wrong.

But whatever the reasons – people directly involved and affected have to face these situations every day.

Looking back at the week, there are examples, challenges to be taken up, and lessons to be learned.

When I was, as a child, violently expelled from the place of my birth in former Yugoslavia, which was also the place of the birth of my parents and grandparents, because our ancestor had immigrated in 1785, legally, and he had established professional services as a black-smith which the whole community needed. He was part of the history of 600,000 people, by 1945, a history which came to an end with the end of Second World War. – We were “sent back to Germany” where nobody had any family ties after almost 200 years. The ethnic conflicts within Yugoslavia destroyed this example of multi-cultural and multi-lingual life – and many people were killed in this process of “ethnic cleansing,” which also led to the expulsion of the ethnic Hungarian population of the same region. Now, more than fifty years later, the different peoples of the former Yugoslavia have still to deal with this history, where Kosovo is one of the areas of continuing conflict which was again in the international news recently.

Does this model of forceful solutions and suffering say anything useful for overcoming the tensions affecting the ethnic Vietnamese community in Cambodia? Uprootings and displacements do not seem to lead to peace. Not decisions leading to violent actions, but fair, legal arrangements can help towards stability. The majority of ethnic Vietnamese people in Cambodia are not recent voluntary arrivals, their parents or grandparents came in the course of French colonial policies. Without finding ways to provide them uncontested possibilities to legalize their situation, it is difficult to imagine social peace.

[Observations and a report from meeting Cambodian people living in Korea got held up and are still not here, because they were to be sent from a place in the USA where the Internet connection is down at present. But an explaining SMS came through. - The Mirror will carry this under the date of Saturday, 18.12.2010, as soon as it becomes available.]

The Korean case is of an extremely opposite nature. While the citizenship of all – all! – countries in Asia is composed of various ethnic populations with different languages, the Korean peninsula is the only place of a mono-lingual situation in Asia (at present split into two different states for political reasons) – all others have ethnic minorities or are composed of larger different ethnic groups. But South Korea is now actively inviting foreigners to come temporarily to Korea, or to immigrate. There is not only the increasing number of women from Cambodia, China, Mongolia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, who are married to Korean men, but there is an increasing number of professionally highly qualified foreigners – technicians, professors, academic researchers, artists in the media, including from eastern and western Europe and from North America – who have moved to Korea and have been accepted into citizenship. In some recent years, it was reported that close to 10 percent of marriages were international. Korea is transforming itself slowly from an ethnically and linguistically unified country towards a globalized society.

Between these to models of states where people of different language live together, and, on the other hand, the unique situation of Korea, there are the millions of refugees and displaced persons and migrants for whom solutions do not yet exist. Solutions are normally found by the more powerful and richer elements of a society, which then are imposed – by laws and regulations – on the weaker ones. And where national interests may be biased to favor people of the ethnic majority, international conventions, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, can intervene to protect the weaker ones.

Unfortunately, many of these UN Conventions cannot be enforced, even when the government of a country has, following all formalities, acceded and subscribed to such principles. That is why we quoted in The Mirror on Thursday from the initial statement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which says:

“The UN General Assembly, Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and good faith in the fulfillment of the obligations assumed by States in accordance with the Charter…”

But what happens when it is not so obvious whether or not UN principles are being kept “in good faith”? For the weaker parties, this is often a life-and-death question.

The Cambodia Daily reported on 18/19.12.2010 that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mr. Hor Namhong, declared after the return from China with a government delegation under the leadership of the Prime Minister:

“China is growing in every sector – economy and finance and military – so there is no one who can stop them in the world politics. – As Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] has mentioned before, the development and growth of China will bring Chinese tourists to visit foreign countries including Cambodia. Would we rather accept Chinese tourists who visit Cambodia and spend money here, or Chinese refugees? It is easy to accept this simple point of view. Which one would be better off?”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, referred to in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia, requires to weigh both: universal interests, and national interests. Economic considerations have to be weighed in the context of the highest law. Its Article 31 says:

The Kingdom of Cambodia shall recognize and respect human rights as stipulated in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the covenants and conventions related to human rights, women’s and children’s rights.

Edited by Norbert KLEIN

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 695 – Sunday, 19.12.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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