Stateless communities in CambodiaJan 30 2023
The Christmas market this year had a specific purpose: to raise funds to support a new GTV project which aims to support stateless communities of Vietnamese origin residing in Cambodia, in the Kampong Chhnang Province.
Some members of the GTV board have come into contact with these communities after the recent floods that have heavily affected them, and given the dramatic situation, the association has decided to commit themselves to a new project for them.
But let's start by telling you who these communities are, their history and context of life.
These are Vietnamese communities who emigrated to Cambodia as early as the last century, when the Cambodian-Vietnamese war was underway between the two countries. Cambodia shares its eastern border and much of its history with Vietnam. However, the past conflict between the two nations has led to a negative perception of the Vietnamese communities settled in Cambodian territory.
These are communities that emigrated to escape from conflicting situations, in search of a more peaceful context, but are perpetually discriminated against. There have been many deportations and executions by the Khmer Rouge, the followers of the Cambodian Communist Party which ruled between 1976 and 1979, in order to purge the Cambodian population of ethnic minorities. Discrimination persists to the present day through laws enacted to retroactively block naturalization pathways. (1)
These communities, although they have lived in Cambodia for years, have neither Cambodian nor Vietnamese citizenship. Deprived of rights due to their status, they are economically, occupationally and socially isolated. Children have no right to go to school and the only places that offer them a form of education are informal Christian mission schools, where the language spoken is very often Vietnamese. Their families have no access to official jobs, thus remaining relegated to fishing activities. They cannot legally buy land to build stable homes, finding themselves forced to live on precarious houses, often on boats that lack basic services.
To further aggravate an already unstable situation, a series of floods occurred in Cambodia in September-October 2022 which also affected the Province of Kampong Chhnang, where these communities live. (2) The province is located in the center of the country, in an alluvial plain south of the largest Cambodian lake, Tonle Sap. The intensification of extreme events, due to climate change, causes the flooding of rivers, the flooding of agricultural land, the damage to infrastructures. These are periodic events, with peaks of intensity between the months of September and November.
Faced with the situation that these communities have been experiencing for years and in a more serious way in recent months, precisely because of the floods, GTV intends to start a project in support of the Vietnamese ethnic minority who live along the banks of the river in this great plain of Cambodia . The highest goal is to help increase the resilience of these communities and provide them with the means because we have real possibilities to integrate.
We want to start by focusing on improving the educational conditions of the children of the communities along the river, the school structures and supporting teachers to ensure the right to study.
What actions do we want to carry out specifically?
- Cover the salary of a Cambodian language teacher to teach Vietnamese children the language of the country where they live.
- Provide school supplies, including desks, chairs, lockers, books, notebooks, and pens.
- Make improvements to the school damaged by the recent floods and potentially also develop two areas where children can learn while having fun: a library and a small play area in the courtyard.