Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe it turned out that development achievements are jeopardized by ethnic and nationalist conflict. Regarding sequencing, a strong case can be made from this and the above mentioned theories to incorporate minority rights consideration from the beginning in capacity building. This is, to oversimplify the argument, because ethnic and national conflict, mediated through nation-building appears to be in large part a function of capacity building itself. However, given the rather small proportion of cultural minorities in Cambodia the applicability of these insights is not clear.
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In my reading of current political theory there is the widely shared insight that the demand for minority rights should be seen as response to state nation-building, which is associated with policies to disseminate the majority culture (and language) throughout the territory of a given (nation-) state. Nation-building in this sense appears to be closely related to capacity building.

The normative implication is that (state) nation-building is important and legitimate but must be limited by protective rights for cultural minorities. And so is (state) capacity building. These group-differentiated rights in turn legitimize state nation-building. Such treatment should not be considered preferential, or privilege or special status. It rather compensates for disadvantages faced by minority groups that the dominant national group does not face. Among them prominently the threat of cultural extinction. And for the individual the risk to loose its cultural context to make free and meaningful choices, which is important in liberal political theory.
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In general, I feel there is not much recognition of the fact that Cambodia population is multiethnic and multinational and that there is quite a number of non-Khmer Cambodian citizens. I found the use and notion of the word ‘Khmer’ characteristic for this situation. Many people seem to use this term synonymous with Cambodian citizenship, also to my knowledge it refers to ethnicity and language.
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Anecdotal Research

Other than what I mentioned so fare I did not find much research on cultural minorities in Cambodia. The available literature stresses that the data is anecdotal particularly in Cambodia and maybe it is no coincidence that a volume currently co-edited by Will Kymlicka (“Asian Minorities and Western Liberalism”) features most countries in the region but not Cambodia. I assume this neglect is due to the fact that Cambodia is a relatively small country and culturally more homogenous than neighboring countries. However, these facts do not make it more likely that cultural minorities desire to assimilate into the mainstream society. Or less likely that they vehemently resist such demands
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Will Kymlicka

Regarding my perspective on this issue, there has been a lively debate only recently on multicultural citizenship, the ‘politics of recognition’, the rights of minority cultures, the desirability of group-differentiated rights and so on in (Western liberal) political theory. This reflects that associated conflicts came to the forefront of politics in many parts of the world. Although groups are recognized in the constitution and political practice of many countries, this has happened in a theoretical vacuum. I believe there are few well-thought theories yet, and Will Kymlicka is certainly the author of one of them. I have been planning to write my final thesis on his theory and spend quite some time reading his books. His homepage is a great source of information.
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Land Law

I met the land law project’s intern Katrin Seidel yesterday in the evening. She has been working on indigenous people and land law for a couple of month and will leave in the middle of September. She has spent a couple of weeks in several provinces. She told me that the both the Department for Ethnicity and Inter-Ministerial Committee for Highland Peoples Development are not functional. However, her focus appears to be strictly on the land law issue.
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Northeastern Provinces

I feel the northeastern provinces are of particular relevance since ‘highland peoples’ are estimated to be in the majority in these provinces and thus pose a special challenge to both the current decentralization exercise and democracy. One benefit attributed to decentralization is the accommodation of local difference. This seems to be particularly challenging when a different language than the official one is involved, particularly given the rigid language provision in the Cambodian constitutional context. This poses severe challenges to decentralization and I don’t think it is well understood what ‘participation’, ‘civil society’, ‘capacity building’ and so on means in such linguistic and cultural circumstances. And I doubt that there are well established best practices. The rights of minority cultures are associated with very sensitive issues such as land rights, language rights, educational curriculum, regional autonomy, self government up to self-determination and most notorious secession which all are in one way or the other related to decentralization.
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I read a few introductory texts on decentralization and found very few references to cultural minorities with regard to Cambodia.

In an essay titled ‘Decentralization and Civil Society in Cambodia: a brave new state?’ I found very few references to my issue, among them the following one: “It should also be noted that the rights of minorities under the 1996 Cambodian nationality law are not explicit: Constitutional protection is extended only to ‘Khmer’ people, but it is not clear how this is to be defined in a multi-ethnic society. This point will be very relevant in gauging the democratic content of the decentralization exercise.”

In a Literature Review on Decentralization (2001) by CCSP I found few but helpful insights. About ethnic or religious minorities who live territorially concentrated the author notes “Such minorities often live in close proximity to and among majority groups, and when that is true, decentralization may actually empower arenas in which prejudices against minorities are stronger than at higher levels in the political system. It may suggest Manor (1997), make things worse.”
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This is dated January 2003 and for some reasons, I can not find this paper anymore in the internet. However, these documents (together with my suspicion of the World Bank and its fancy publications) seem to indicate that there may be reasons to question their assessment and to challenge their conclusions and associated decisions.
It might also be worth mentioning that many major players in the development field such as UN, World Bank, OECD, ILO and so on have adopted covenants conventions of minority rights.
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World Bank – Operational Directive 4.2

It points out that RILGP must meet the requirements of Operational Directive 4.2, which is on Indigenous Peoples, itself a sensitive issue, and apparently demanding. The Bank determines that OD 4.2 applies with reference to “Highland Peoples” who maintain cultural and socioeconomic practices different than those practices by the Khmer national majority. The paper describes (tough) actions to be taken by the Royal Government of Cambodia to ensure that project arrangements meet the requirements of the directive in question.
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Highland Peoples Development Plan

This paper is titled “Additional Annex 14: Highland Peoples Development Plan. Cambodia: Rural Investment and Local Governance.” This paper starts “The World Bank is preparing a Rural Investment and Local Governance Project (RILGP) to support expansion of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Seila Program”. It is stressed in this paper that at present, Seila objectives and procedures do not explicitly consider program impacts on the various ethnic minorities residing within program provinces.
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Indigenous Peoples Plan

Of particular interest to my curiosity was a paper titled the Indigenous Peoples Plan (IP)-3/31/2003, which appears to be a document prepared by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and Ministry of Rural Development and is titled Provincial and Rural Infrastructure Project (PRIP). Indigenous Peoples Development Framework (Draft)”. This paper appears to address the concerns expressed in a World Bank paper that I found in the internet when I was still in Germany.
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World Bank – Provincial and Rural Infrastructure Project

On the world bank homepage I found that there is a ‘pipeline project’ called ‘Provincial and Rural Infrastructure Project’ associated with an IDA commitment of 20 USD$ million . Quite a bit of their project documentation is online available here.
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International Labor Organization (ILO)

ILO has itself a policy on indigenous people and apparently provided training and regional exchange of ideas. The output of this support is a paper published under the title “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Project, ILO and Inter-Ministerial Committee for Ethnic Minority Development in Cambodia. Final Report. National Workshop On Sharing Experience on Policy for Indigenous/Ethnic Minority Development in the Kingdom of Cambodia From 04-05 April 2002”
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