Vietnam Demands Inquiry into 'Racist' Killing in Cambodia

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L) with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen (R) during the official inauguration ceremony of Cho Ray-Phnom Penh Hospital in Phnom Penh, Jan. 13, 2014.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L) with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen (R) during the official inauguration ceremony of Cho Ray-Phnom Penh Hospital in Phnom Penh, Jan. 13, 2014.

Updated at 10:45 a.m. ET on 2014-2-26

Vietnamese authorities called Tuesday for an investigation into the beating death of a Vietnamese man following a traffic accident in Phnom Penh that has raised ethnic tensions.

Tran Van Chien, 30, was chased and attacked by a group of Cambodians after he responded to a call for help from a neighbor whose motorbike had been struck by a car, according to Cambodian media reports.

Witnesses said the crowd had been incited to action by shouts of “yuon,” a derogatory term for Vietnamese in Cambodia, where ethnic tensions sometimes rise high amid competing territorial claims and immigration concerns.

Chien had scuffled briefly with a Cambodian family unable to move their car past the motorbike, which had been left parked in an alley, before he was pursued and killed, according to a Cambodia Daily report on Tuesday.

Tran Van Thong, a spokesman for the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, called for an immediate inquiry into the death.

“We demand that the authorities investigate and bring the killers to justice and hold them accountable according to Cambodian law,” Thong told RFA’s Vietnamese Service.

“Meanwhile, we ask for measures to be taken to prevent such racist activities or any instigation of racism or discrimination against Vietnamese in Cambodia,” he said.

“We want an investigation,” Thong said in a separate interview with RFA’s Khmer Service, adding, “The Cambodian government must ensure that no killing like this ever happens again.”

Killed over a word

Chien’s pregnant wife said she was shocked that one derogatory word could lead to her husband’s death.

“I didn’t believe that my husband would be killed over this word,” Chien’s wife Men Sinath, eight months’ pregnant, told the Cambodia Daily on Tuesday.

“He was born in Cambodia. He lived all his life in Cambodia. He has a Cambodian wife and soon a Cambodian baby, but he was killed for being Vietnamese?”

A deputy police chief of Phnom Penh’s Chak Angre Loeu commune said a suspect in the killing, 52-year-old Bun Chanvutha, is now in custody and “will face the law,” the report said.

Speaking to RFA on Tuesday, Cambodian Internal Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gen. Khieu Sopheak blamed ethnic tensions in Cambodia on the policies of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which have led, he said, to “misunderstandings” between Vietnamese and Cambodians.

“Our [own] government policy is nondiscriminating,” Sopheak told RFA’s Vietnamese Service, calling Vietnam and Cambodia “good neighbors.”

Also speaking to RFA, CNRP spokesperson Nem Panharith denied party responsibility for exacerbating tensions between the two groups, blaming the incident instead on the Cambodian public’s “lack of confidence in our court system.”

“The government needs to stop violence on the streets,” he said.

Wary over influence

Many Cambodians are wary of Vietnam’s influence over their country’s affairs.

An estimated 1.7 million people, or one in four Cambodians, died in what came to be called the “Killing Fields” after the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge took power in 1975. The regime was unseated when Vietnam invaded the country four years later.

Vietnam occupied the country for a decade before withdrawing its troops and signing the Paris Peace Agreement to restore sovereignty and stability to Cambodia.

Reported by Yeang Socheameata for RFA’s Khmer Service and by Quoc Viet for the Vietnamese Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect nationality and name for the victim.

Comments (21)

Anonymous Reader

Khmer people are the most racist in the world. You kill a man just because he is a 'youn' and then try to say that it is not racism. What kind of Buddhist country are you? Aren't you supposed to treat people as the Lord Buddha would? As long as Khmer people are racist, the world will not respect Cambodia. A civilised nation must learn to get on with its minorities and neighbours. Racism will lead to a shaky economic and political foundation giving rise to far left or right parties who may be the next Khmer Rouge. I must warn of your terrible past, there has been no other country on this planet like your Cambodia, succeeding to kill your 25% of your own population. Do not let this occur again!

Jun 06, 2014 07:25 AM


from PP

វៀតណាមចង់ស្វែងរកយុត្តិធម៌?​ ចុះពេលយកទឹកដីខ្មែរម៉េចក៏មិនអោយអង្គការសហប្រជាជាតិស្វែងរកយុត្តិធម៌អោយខ្មែរផង?​

Mar 26, 2014 05:35 AM


from MA

And certainly enough, if any Vietnamese individual were to die somewhere else, you hear nothing of such demands from the Vietnamese government; its funny how they try and try again to overtake their neighbors land, some people may look at them as being smart, pretty much swallowing all of present day Laos and now moving on into our Cambodian land; yet, little do they know what goes up must goes down and soon enough Vietnam will fall like the piece of selfish and inhumane person she is.

Feb 20, 2014 01:27 PM


I totally agree that the foolish Vietnam government is behind this because all they do is manipulate in attempts to overtake. It is amazing that one death of a sole Vietnamese brings forth all these demands versus the multiple abused Cambodians who are currently living in Vietnam (aka the native lands of the current Cambodian residents). For all we know there has to be multiple deaths and abuse of native Cambodians who are ripped of their lands. Where is the ignorant Hun Sen in this matter?

Feb 20, 2014 01:26 PM

Anonymous Reader

i'm shocked by all of these narrow-minded, racists comments that presents no humanity and understanding to the big picture of murders.

Feb 20, 2014 11:53 AM


It is not racist when people are expressing their own feelings from the ethnic group that has robbed them of their land.

Feb 20, 2014 01:24 PM

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