Home > cultural diversity, General > Research Design

Research Design

My work keeps me busy and I do not find time to more general reflection. I do not even find time to answer my mail. Sorry for that. I will be in Kratie for another week. However, I changed the schedule and will come back to Phnom Penh before I travel to Mondulkiri and continue fieldwork.

I thought it might be a good idea to provide my research outline and rational as well as the guiding questions that I use to conduct my (semi-standardized) interviews. However, I did not find time to update it dititaly and this reflects the situation rather three weeks ago. I will provide the update on this as soon as I get back from Kratie.

Guiding Questions Cultural Minorities and Decentralization
This research aims at assessing how the current decentralization exercise affects cultural minorities and their members. It is meant to address the following question: What can be done in within the framework of the current decentralization process to facilitate the accommodation of Cambodia’s cultural diversity and the needs and fair demands of ethnocultural minorities? This inevitably raises the questions what actually are the needs and fair demands of various minorities? What is the norm according to which the fairness of demands for minority rights can be assessed? In order to provide a preliminary answer the study will provide a short overview regarding recent developments in political theory and their reflection in international law to the extent it is relevant in the Cambodian context.

The final report will assess the possible relevance of Western models of multiculturalism and minority rights. Those Western ideas are likely to become more influential in Cambodia due to increasing linkages between local groups/NGOs and international networks. Furthermore, various international organizations – such as the UN, World Bank, and ILO have formulated international declarations of minority and indigenous rights that Cambodia is expected to comply with.

In the context of this study this is obvious with regard to the World Banks pending Rural Investment and Local Governance Project which is intended to support expansion of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s Seila Program. World Bank determined that Operational Directive 4.2 on indigenous people applies to ‘highland people’. Consequently, the Royal Government is required to prepare an Indigenous People Plan and explicitly considers program impacts on ethnic minorities.

To the extent it is possible with the limited time the study will review literature on both decentralization and cultural diversity in Cambodia to put the findings into context. The study aims at highlighting areas for possible improvement and at giving recommendations to current policy making.
Most countries today are culturally diverse. The world’s 184 independent states contain over 600 living language groups, and 5.000 ethnic groups. Minorities and majorities increasingly clash over such issues as language rights, regional autonomy, political representation, education curriculum, land claims, immigration and naturalization policy and national symbols. Finding morally defensible and politically viable answers to these issues appears to be among the greatest challenge facing democracies today. In Eastern Europe and the Third World, attempts to create liberal democratic institutions are being undermined by violent nationalist conflicts. Ethnocultural conflicts have become the most common source of political violence in the world. In many parts of the world previously excluded groups are no longer willing to be silenced but demand a more inclusive conception of citizenship which recognizes their cultural identities and accommodates their differences.

There is a growing recognition in the West that demands for minority rights should be seen as response to state nation-building. Most modern states are nation-building in the sense that that they engage in a process of promoting a common language, and a sense of common membership in, and equal access to, the social institutions operating in that language. This happens with the intention of diffusing a particular culture throughout society, and of promoting a particular national identity based on participation in that societal culture. This process of nation-building inescapably privileges members of the majority culture. As Taylor notes, “if a modern society has an ‘official’ language, in the fullest sense of the term, that is, a state-sponsored, -inculcated, and –defined language and culture, in which both economy and state function, then it is obviously an immense advantage to people if this language and culture are theirs. Speakers of other languages are at a distinct disadvantage” (Taylor 1997: 34).

Characteristic in the Western experience is the distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups. According to Kymlicka, it is the difference in the mode of incorporation which affects the nature of minority groups as well as the sort of relationship they demand with the larger society and eventually the legitimacy of their demands. Kymlicka explores two ‘broad patterns of cultural diversity’. In the case of national minorities, cultural diversity arises from the involuntary incorporation of previously self-governing, territorially concentrated cultures into a larger state. Given this definition, indigenous peoples form a subcategory of national minority. “These incorporated cultures … typically wish to maintain themselves as distinct societies alongside the majority culture, and demand various forms of autonomy or self-government to ensure their survival as distinct societies” (MC: 10). Consequently, a given state in which two or more nations coexist is a multination state. In the case of ethnic groups, cultural diversity is the result of voluntary individual and familial immigration. Ethnic groups “typically wish to integrate into the larger society, and to be accepted as full members of it. While they often seek greater recognition of their ethnic identity, their aim is not to become a separate and self-governing nation alongside the larger society, but to modify the institutions and laws of the mainstream society to make them more accommodating of cultural differences” (MC: 11). Typically, national minorities live territorially concentrated whereas ethnic groups do not. This element is particularly relevant with regard to decentralization, because the devolution of power to lower levels of government can provide territorially concentrated national minorities with significant self-governing powers, while it does not directly affect territorially dispersed ethnic groups.

The question of how to accommodate the associated difference is not the same in the case of ethnic groups versus national minorities and consequently the answer is different as well. With regard to ethnic groups, the question is “What are fair terms of integration?” The answer is predominantly (but not entirely) a matter of immigration and naturalization policy, which is not as relevant in the framework of decentralization. With regard to national minorities, the question is “What are permissible forms of nation-building?” The answer covers a much wider range of policies, among them education laws, language laws, policies regarding public service employment, military service, and the national media, which are or can be subject to decentralization and deconcentration policies.

The hypothesis of this research is that the distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups is relevant in the Cambodian context. The departure point of this study is the assumption that in the Cambodian context only indigenous peoples (‘highland people, ‘hill tribes’, or ‘Khmer Loeu’ qualify for the category of national minorities. Groups such as Kuy, Stieng, Prov, Kavet, Phnong, Kroeng, and Tumpuan have formed self-governing societies with a complete set of institutions prior to being incorporated into the larger Cambodian (nation-) state. In contrast, the existence of groups such as Muslim Cham, Vietnamese, and Chinese in Cambodia is generally the result of voluntary individual or family integration. None of those groups has ever formed a society on homelands within the boundaries of present day Cambodia.

It follows from the above that this distinction can have powerful policy implications. In this framework, ethnic groups would generally be expected to integrate into the mainstream culture, while national minorities are not. This is particularly important with regard to linguistic integration.

Given this framework, the expected finding is that there are significant differences between minorities identified as ethnic groups compared to minorities classified as national minorities in the patterns of both integration and participation in decentralized institutions (and possibly in the nature of their demands as well). If follows from the above considerations that the design of decentralization policy is more relevant with regard to the accommodation of national minorities than with respect to ethnic groups. Therefore, the study will concentrate on indigenous peoples.

Ethnic Groups National Minorities
Exist in Polyethnic States Multination States
Source of Cultural Pluralism Immigration Conquer, Colonization
Mode of Incorporation Voluntary Involuntary
Model in Western Democracies Immigrant Multiculturalism Multination Federalism
Group-Differentiated Rights Polyethnic rights, accommodation rights, special representation rights Self-government, special representation rights,
Accommodation Integration Accommodation, regional autonomy, Self-Determination
Societal Culture No Yes
Emerging Consensus: Liberal Culturalism Liberal Multiculturalism Liberal nationalism
Question What are fair terms of integration? What are permissible forms of nation-building?

Research Design and Analytical Framework
• Since the context of this research is the current decentralization process and since the Commune Councils are the prime decentralized bodies in this framework, the study primarily targets the associated level of government in Cambodia.
• The study will use primarily semi structured interviews to shed light on the problem perception, interests, demands and concerns of relevant groups and organizations, such as Commune Councils, provincial and district level government agencies, provincial and district facilitation teams (PFT/DFT) and members of the groups in question.
• To put the result of this study properly into context it will be informed by and based on the current UNDP-supported review study on the implementation of decentralization policy and intends to add to/ follow up on the recent “Considerations for Development of a Concept and Strategy to Promote Local Governance Based on Democratic Principles and Good Governance”.
• The selection of Communes, Districts, and Provinces will be done according to various criteria closely related to the objectives of this study. Those criteria are mostly associated with the composition of constituency along cultural (linguistic, ethnic, racial, indigeneity) lines. Where possible it will be helpful to compare the situation of cultural minority groups in Communes where their members form a majority to Communes where they are actually in the minority.
• This research endeavor will be standardized to the extent necessary to allow for some comparison between different groups. However, since the groups in question are diverse in nature (indigenous people versus immigrants, for example) the insights of comparison cannot but be limited.
• The analysis and interpretation will be purely qualitative.
• In addition, comparison between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ communities (in terms of capacity) might be of value.
• Constituencies with high/low proportion of indigenous people
• Constituencies with high/low proportions of religious minorities (such as Muslim Cham and Christians)
• Constituencies in an urban/rural setting
• Due to the apparent lack of data on ethnic identity, language, race and other criteria even the selection of suitable Communes and Provinces has to cope with significant challenges.
• Available resources (particularly in terms of time and budget) are limited.
• There is a rather restricted amount of literature on decentralization and cultural minorities.
General information about the interviewee, such as:
• What is your official status?
• What is your ethnic identity?
• gender
• age
• family status
• party membership/ affiliation?
• relations with the current power structure
Commune Level
• To what extend did the master training include training on the specific needs and rights of indigenous peoples?
• How are village chiefs determined?
• Do chiefs of villages with a strong proportion of members of cultural minorities participate in Council meetings?
• Does the Commune Council invites elders of indigenous groups?

What cultural groups make up the constituency of the Commune Council?
• Percentage of council members who are member of a cultural minority?
• Percentage of civil society representatives who are members of cultural minorities?
• How many villages are there with a proportion of cultural minorities in their constituency?
• How many villages are there with a majority of minority members in the composition of their constituency?
• How are they represented in the meetings?
• How do they co-operate with NGO, CBOs? How do they ensure that interests of minorities are considered in the councils?
• Are members of cultural minorities approaching the Commune Councils?
• How many daily and for what reasons?
• Are there constituents of non-Buddhist religion (such as Muslims, Christians)?
• Are there people whose first language is not Khmer? How many?
• How many constituents’ fist language is Khmer? How many constituents’ first language is not Khmer? What is their first language?
• Are their people of other race, ethnicity or origin than Khmer (such as Vietnamese, Chinese, Muslim Cham …)?
• What proportion of the constituency do they make up?
• How is their standing in the community?
• Are members of those groups’ members of the commune council, district or provincial authority, DFT/PFT?
• Do members of those groups participate in Council Affairs?
• How? How often? Differently compared to Khmer constituents?
• Are languages other than Khmer used in Council meetings?
• How does the Council respond to needs articulated by members/organizations of the minority culture?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
• Are there intermarriages?
Do decentralized institutions work for members of cultural minority groups?
• Do constituents attend Commune Council meetings? Do members of minority groups attend Council meetings?
• Why or why not?
• What is done to ensure their participation/ voice in the process (invitations, dissemination of knowledge and information …)?
• What are the costs in terms of time and money?
• Do members of cultural groups face additional cost/specific disadvantages due to them being member of a cultural group distinct from the Khmer mainstream society?
• Do citizens know what is being discussed in the Commune Council?
• Do citizens approach members of the CC to voice their concerns and get information? Do they have a voice in the process (of determining affairs which affect them directly?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
District Structures
• What is done to give members of cultural minorities a voice in the deliberations at the district integration workshop?
• What language(s) are used in the district integration workshop?
• Have there been linguistic problems during the previous integration workshop?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
NGOs/Civil Society/Secondary Associations
• Are there secondary associations?
• What kind of associations are there? Who are their members? Along what lines are they established? Are they inclusive in terms of cultural membership?
• Are there cross-cutting memberships in the informal sphere?
• Is there inter-commune cooperation between cultural minorities? Are members of the same association constituents of more than one Commune?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
Provincial Structures (Seila, DoLA?)
• Does the system of communal, provincial and district governance and the associated legal framework entails any provision for members of cultural minorities? Is there any mechanism to incorporate specific demands and needs of members of cultural minorities?
• Percentage of minority CC chiefs?
• Percentage of minority CC members?
• Percentage of minority village chiefs?
• Are there any human, material and financial resources to acknowledge the specific needs of cultural minorities?
• What language(s) are used in the provincial integration workshop?
• Have there been linguistic problems during the previous integration workshop?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
• Do you have an idea about what the Commune has been doing since election?
• Do elected officials discuss with them on development and services in the locality?
• Do you have participated in any meeting organized by the Commune? What were discussed and resolved?
• What should the Communes be doing?
• How can you contribute to any development activity and services through the Communes?
• Do you know what the commune Council is doing?
• Do you know members of the Commune Council personally?
• Are you interested in what is being discussed in the Commune Council?
• What benefits has it brought to you?
• What do you think your friends and relatives think about the Commune Council?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
Provincial and District Facilitation Teams (DFT/PFT)
• What is being done to ensure that members of the DFT/PFT speak the language of the majority of the population in their area?
• Is there any encouragement/incentive for them to learn the local language?
• What is done to recruit DFT/PFT from local constituencies?
• Suggestions or recommendations?
What are the indigenous power structures?
• How are conflicts solved locally?
• Where do people go if conflicts arise?
• How does the community make decisions?
• How does participation works?
• Do women participate? Do they have a voice?
• Do youngsters participate? Do they have a voice?
Questions regarding Questions
• How do I properly record the interview? Should I print those questions with additional space as interview guide and take notes on it? What about using a voice recorder?
• Should I conduct interviews with members of minorities in the absence of members of the mainstream ethnic group?
• How can I ensure that during the time of my interviews a translator is constantly available? I assume that Reaksa will have other assignments due to Luc’s return.
• Is it possible to get a secondary interviewer? It is quite difficult to ask the questions, take notes at the same time and write them down later on. What about DoLA staff?
• Which bodies and levels of government should I address? How can I incorporate civil society actors?
• Is this a realistic study to be done within only 3 to 4 weeks?
• Is two to three weeks enough to write the final report?
• Where can I get the ‘Minorities in Cambodia’ book?

Categories: cultural diversity, General Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.