I have spend the last month writing on my final thesis about indigenous peoples in Cambodia. The text has grown in size and scope significantly. The current working title is “The Theory of Multiculturalism and Cultural Diversity in Cambodia”.
The aim of the thesis is to discuss and assess the rights of cultural minorities in Cambodia in the light of Western liberal theories of multiculturalism. More precisely, the thesis compares and contrasts Will Kymlicka’s theory of multicultural citizenship with the situation and aspirations of indigenous peoples in Cambodia. By doing so, I hope to justify and make plausible specific rights for indigenous peoples, in particular some measure of self-government rights and special representation rights.
Today I finished the first draft of the text. There are still some formal problems and minor inconsistencies in the argumentation. However, I think feedback would be most valuable at this point of the process, where I have still time to accommodate comments and considerations regarding the overall argumentation and structure of the text. Therefore, I make the text available here, as word document (788kb) and .pdf file (631kb). Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
THE THEORY OF MULTICULTURALISM AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN CAMBODIA
I. THE THEORY OF MULTICULTURALISM 5
1. Three Stages of the Debate over Minority Rights 5
1. Minority Rights as Communitarianism 5
2. Minority Rights within a Liberal Framework 6
3. Minority Rights as Response to State Nation-Building 7
2. A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights 10
1. Two Patterns of Cultural Diversity 10
2. Indigenous Peoples 12
3. Group-Differentiated Rights 16
4. Societal Cultures 19
5. Justifying Group-Differentiated Rights 21
6. Judging Group-Differentiated Rights 24
7. Liberal Nationalism 28
8. Liberal Democracy and Nationhood 29
9. Nation-Building and Nation-Destroying 31
10. Indigenous Rights and Decentralization 32
1. CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN CAMBODIA 33
1. The Cultural Composition of Cambodia’s Population 35
2. Ethnic Groups: Immigration 36
3. Ethnic Groups: Integration 39
4. Conclusions: Ethnic Groups 42
1. National Minorities: Hill Tribes 44
1. Becoming Minorities: Involuntary Incorporation 44
2. Nation-Destroying: Integrating Hill Tribes into the Khmer Nation 45
3. Nation Building and its Liberal Limits in Cambodia 46
4. Current Policy towards Hill Tribes: Nation-Destroying 50
5. Current Policies towards Hill Tribes: Accommodation 54
6. Decentralization and Nation-Building 57
2. Empirical Research: Indigenous Peoples and Decentralization 60
1. Research Design and Methodology 60
2. Hill Tribes: Meaningful Choices through Societal Cultures 61
3. The Value of Cultural Membership 63
4. Traditional and Formal Institutions 65
5. Access 66
6. Language 69
7. Participation 70
8. Attitudes among Government Officials: Integration 71
9. Representation 73
10. Decentralization and Indigenous Rights 75
11. Justifying Indigenous Rights 77
3. CONCLUSIONS 81
4. LITERATURE 88
The Theory of Multiculturalism and Cultural Diversity in Cambodia
The aim of this diploma thesis is to discuss and assess the rights of cultural minorities in Cambodia in the light of Western liberal theories of multiculturalism. More precisely, this thesis compares and contrasts Will Kymlicka’s theory of multicultural citizenship with the situation and aspirations of indigenous peoples in Cambodia. There are a number of reasons to pay attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and to do so in Cambodia specifically. Indigenous peoples are considered among the world’s most disadvantaged groups and belong to the most vulnerable and impoverished segments of the population in virtually any of the countries in which they are found. This is due to a variety of reasons, among them their exclusion from the decision-making process, small numbers of members, great cultural distance to the majority group, geographical isolation, fragile ecology, and because their ways of live tend to be greatly at odds with modernity . Cambodia is no exception in this respect.
Another reason to discuss indigenous peoples in Cambodia is closely related to a dramatic reversal that has been taking place in many countries in the way indigenous peoples are being treated, particularly in the West and in Latin America. Previously, the expectation was that indigenous peoples would cease to exist due to dying out, inter-marriage, or assimilation. Frequently, governments adopted policies to accelerate this process. This approach has changed radically. Today, all Western and most Latin American countries accept the idea that indigenous peoples will exist into the indefinite future as distinct societies alongside the majority culture, and that they should have the land claims, cultural rights, and self-government rights needed to perpetuate themselves as distinct societies. A remarkable process of decolonization is taking place throughout these countries, as indigenous peoples regain their lands, self-government, and customary law .
This process corresponds to recent developments in international law, which today reflects the most advanced practice of Western countries regarding indigenous rights. Land claims, customary law, and self-government for indigenous peoples are all firmly recognized in recent international documents, such as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 169 and the United Nations’ draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Anaya 1996). Besides these declarations of indigenous rights, international financial organizations – such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – have adopted policies designed to recognize and respect the distinct rights of indigenous peoples.
The development in Western and Latin American countries provides a strong contrast to Asia. While some states in Asia are moving towards the greater recognition of the distinct needs and rights of indigenous peoples, no such development has been taking place in most Asian countries and the situation of indigenous peoples has not been subject to much debate . An indication of this contrast is that no Asian country has ratified ILO Convention No. 169 yet. In this regard, too, Cambodia is no exception. Moreover, indigenous groups in Cambodia received even lesser attention compared to neighboring countries, because Cambodia is regarded the culturally most homogenous country in the region, because indigenous peoples make up only a very small proportion of the overall population, and because these groups are characterized by a remarkably low level of organization and mobilization. Given this contrast, it is interesting to analyze and discuss the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia in general and in Cambodia in particular.
There are a number of reasons to use Kymlicka’s theoretical framework for this discussion. Kymlicka was among the first theorists to systematically theorize the rights of cultural minorities and his theory is widely regarded the most influential in its field. This is reflected not least in the fact that the most prominent critics of multiculturalism use his concepts to formulate their objections. Another reason to apply this theory to Cambodia is to test the author’s assumption that important elements of his theory can be applied in many Asian countries (Kymlicka 2003). Furthermore, Kymlicka’s theory presents a distinctively liberal conception of minority rights. Although Cambodia is not a liberal state, many people in Cambodia aspire to liberal institutions and practice. This is reflected in the frequent use of the term in public discourse as well as in Cambodia’s constitution . Given this aspiration, discussing the challenges of cultural pluralism in the light of liberal principles seems a particularly worthwhile exercise in Cambodia and Kymlicka’s theory offers a suitable framework to do so. Other reasons to use Kymlicka’s theory are more practical. This theory is capable of explaining and justifying the dramatic changes regarding the recognition of indigenous rights in Western and Latin American countries mentioned above. Applying it to Cambodia can help to capitalize on the experience of these countries in accommodating their indigenous populations. Furthermore, as the discussion will show, Kymlicka’s theory is consistent with various declarations of indigenous rights in international law mentioned above and capable of justifying their objectives. Increasingly, Cambodia is being expected to comply with these international norms of indigenous rights, not least due to a growing rights-consciousness among members of the affected groups and increasing linkages between local organizations and international networks advocating for indigenous rights. This trend is being reinforced by the considerable involvement of international organizations in Cambodia. For example, the World Bank and ADB have already determined that their policies apply to indigenous peoples in Cambodia . There is widespread agreement that an appropriate policy for Cambodia’s indigenous peoples is needed. However, there is little consensus about how such a policy might look like. Given the increasing importance of international norms of indigenous rights in Cambodia, applying Kymlicka’s theory and discussing its limitations can contribute to a well-informed debate about whether or not the associated models can and should be applied in Cambodia. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to this debate and ultimately to the development of a viable and justifiable policy for Cambodia’s indigenous peoples.
The first part of this thesis discusses the political theory of multicultural citizenship which will then be applied to the Cambodian context in the second part. A brief discussion of the course of the minority rights debate in three stages serves as a point of departure. Afterwards, central elements of Will Kymlicka’s distinctively liberal theory of minority rights will be introduced. This discussion is not limited to indigenous peoples. Rather, Kymlicka’s typology of cultural minorities will facilitate contrasting the situation and aspirations of indigenous peoples with other cultural minorities. Following a discussion of the importance of cultural membership for the individual, various arguments justifying certain group-rights will be introduced and assessed. The argumentation will then turn to recent developments in political theory associated with the emerging position of liberal nationalism. In its final section, the first part will be summarized with emphasis on the implication for indigenous peoples. Along the way, criticism leveled against Kymlicka’s theory will be introduced and discussed. The second part is concerned with cultural minorities in Cambodia. Following a general overview of Cambodia’s cultural diversity, the incorporation of various groups into the Cambodian nation-state and their integration into Cambodia’s mainstream society will be discussed in the light of the concepts introduced in the first part. The argumentation will identify Cambodia’s hill tribes as indigenous peoples and highlight the involuntary nature of their incorporation while stressing the importance of these groups’ survival for the well-being of their individual members. The discussion will assess current policies towards indigenous peoples with particular emphasis on the Royal Governments’ current decentralization program. This part will include the results of empirical research carried out in three northeastern provinces.
Based on the research results as well as the earlier discussion the thesis will explore ways to better accommodate the needs and fair demands of indigenous peoples and assess the validity and limitations of Kymlicka’s theory in the Cambodian context. The hypothesis is that Kymlicka’s theory provides a largely valid framework to analyze and understand cultural diversity in Cambodia and the challenges involved in accommodating various indigenous peoples. Accordingly, meaningful measures of self-government rights, language rights, land rights, and special representation rights for these groups are needed to enable them to sustain their existence as distinct societies. However, institutionalizing these rights is likely to take forms significantly different from the ‘multination federation’ model preferred by Kymlicka. Given the situation of indigenous peoples in Cambodia and the nature of the Cambodian state, the local level of government is likely to provide the framework for their accommodation. More research is needed with the active involvement of groups members is needed to develop local models that effectively correspond to the specific situation, needs and interests of Cambodia’s indigenous peoples.
I. THE THEORY OF MULTICULTURALISM
1. Three Stages of the Debate over Minority Rights
1. Minority Rights as Communitarianism
The debate over the rights of minorities during the 70s and 80s was essentially framed in terms of the familiar controversy between liberalism and communitarianism . While promoters of liberalism insist on the priority of individual freedom, communitarians stress that individuals are members of and constituted through groups or communities and embedded in a particular social infrastructure (Rawls 1971; Sandel 1982; Taylor 1992). From the communitarian perspective, individuals are products of social practices and do not revise their conception of the good life. Liberals stress the priority of the rights of free and equal citizens, while communitarians stress the priority of shared values and various forms of communities. Since questions of minority or group-specific rights involve ethnocultural communities mobilizing for the protection of their group, it was believed that one’s position in the minority rights debate derived from one’s position in the communitarianism debate. At this stage, the assumption was that promoters of liberalism would oppose minority rights as subordinating individual autonomy, while communitarians would support minority rights as protecting communities from the corroding influence of liberal individualism. Ethnocultural minorities where thought to maintain a more collective way of life and did not yet give in to liberal autonomy. From the communitarian perspective, minority rights provide those groups with appropriate protection against individualism and help to promote the value and significance of the community. At this stage of the debate, promoting minority rights was bound to endorsing the communitarian critique of liberal individualism, and to understanding minority rights as defense of community-oriented minority groups against liberalism. Promoters of minority rights agreed with communitarians that minority rights contradict liberal individualism and admitted that this simply shows the inherent failure of liberalism. Maybe the most elaborate communitarian supporter of minority rights at this stage of the debate is Vernon Van Dyke. In his book Human Rights, Ethnicity and Discrimination (1985) he provides an extensive account of the practice of collective rights in numerous countries. Following this rich variety of examples he criticizes the “arbitrary and unjustified” individualism of liberal-democratic theory. Van Dyke concludes that traditional liberalism “needs to be modified so as to recognize the just claims of certain kinds of groups – that is, so as to concede them rights that are distinct from and not reducible to individual rights” (Van Dyke 1985: 195). Like many communitarians, Van Dyke remains ambiguous towards liberalism and leaves open whether he criticizes liberalism from within or outside this tradition. However, his position is characteristic of the first stage of the minority rights debate, because it endorses the communitarian critique of liberalism and views minority rights as defending cohesive and communally-minded minority groups against the invasion of liberal individualism.
2. Minority Rights within a Liberal Framework
These assumptions were increasingly questioned. It became more and more clear that most ethnocultural groups in Western states are not seeking protection from modernity, but ask for equal participation in modern liberal societies. Even if some members of national minorities contemplate secession, they mostly do not want to create illiberal communitarian societies. In modern democracies, the obligation to individual autonomy crosses ethnic, linguistic, and religious cleavages. The debate about minority rights thus turns into a debate between groups and individuals who disagree about the interpretation, not about the validity of liberal principles. Promoters of multiculturalism suggest that some group specific rights are in line with – and might indeed be required by – liberal-democratic principles. The question at this stage of the debate is not how to protect illiberal minorities from liberalism, but whether minorities which support liberal principles none the less need minority rights.
Various authors have strengthened this position of liberal culturalism, which insists on the critical significance of cultural identity and national membership for the autonomy of individuals. They point out that pressing interests associated with culture and identities are consistent with liberal freedom and equality.
Margalit and Raz, for example, stress the importance of groups to the well-being of their members and point out that the moral importance of the group’s interest depends on its value to individuals. For them, individual well-being depends on the successful pursuit of goals and relationships. These goals and relationships are products of culture and depend for their existence on shared patterns of expectations, traditions, and conventions. In this perspective, understanding of one’s own culture is what determines the boundaries of the imaginable for the individual. Cultural membership profoundly affects a person’s opportunities and ability to engage in meaningful relationships. Moreover, a person’s sense of identity is bound up with her cultural membership, and her individual self-respect depends in part on the esteem in which her group is being held. Cultures are particularly well-suited for individual self-identification, because they provide the safety of effortless secure belonging. Accordingly, “individual dignity and self-respect require that the groups, membership of which contributes to one’s sense of identity, be generally respected and not be made a subject of ridicule, hatred, discrimination, or persecution” (Margalit/Raz 1995: pp. 85). In Kymlicka’s theory, the position of liberal culturalism – and the link between a group and the well being of its individual members – is closely related to the concept of societal culture, which will be discussed in some length in section 4. In short, Kymlicka argues that people make choices about various conception of the good life based on beliefs about the value of those conceptions. Those beliefs require understanding the meanings attached to them by culture, history, and language. Consequently, only access to a societal culture provides individuals with meaningful choices, that is, culture is the precondition of individual autonomy.
This second stage takes the debate beyond the frontline of individualism versus collectivism that has characterized the discussion at its first stage. The question of minority rights is widely debated within liberal theory. Promoters of liberal culturalism support the view that some minority rights advance liberal values. Because special status for minorities presents a stark contrast to the ‘neutral’ operations of the liberal state, the burden of proof lies on its defenders. Liberal culturalists aim to meet this burden of proof by showing the significance of cultural membership in protecting individual freedom and self-respect. They seek to support the view that minority rights supplement individual freedom and equality. The scope of group-specific rights within liberal theory remains deeply controversial . The challenge facing liberal culturalists is to differentiate between minority rights that restrict individual rights from minority rights that supplement them. Kymlicka aims to tackle this problem by distinguishing ‘internal restrictions’ from ‘external protections’. Internal restrictions are minority rights which restrict the freedom of group members. In contrast, external protections are designed to reduce the group’s vulnerability to external pressures. This distinction will be discussed in section 5.
3. Minority Rights as Response to State Nation-Building
The second stage of the debate is increasingly challenged as well, because it is said to misinterpret the role of ethnic identities and language in the liberal state and because it misconceives the requirements the state places on minorities. The underlying assumption of the second stage has been the ethnocultural neutrality of the liberal state. What marks the third stage of the debate, then, is that this assumption becomes increasingly contested. Typically, liberals have strongly endorsed a strict separation of church and state. As this ideal of ‘benign neglect’ has contributed well to accommodate religious diversity, many liberals have assumed that the model of the neutral state can be applied to cultural diversity as well. Both spheres, culture and religion, are thought to be privatized, that is, not the concern of the liberal state. There are no official cultures with public privileges and the state is understood to be indifferent towards the reproduction of ethnocultural groups. As with religion, citizens are free to pursue and promote matters of culture in their private lives, while the standard operations of the liberal state do not privilege one religion or culture over the other. For many liberals, the United States provide the clearest manifestation of these principles, since it does not have a constitutionally recognized official language. To become American, then, means to agree to certain principles of democracy and individual freedom, while it does not necessitate allegiance to a particular culture. Other theorists claim that the separation of state and culture marks the difference between liberal ‘civic nations’ and illiberal ‘ethnic nations’. While ethnic nations take an active interest in the reproduction of a particular culture and identity, civic nations define national membership entirely in terms of respect for principles of democracy and justice. In the West, claims of minorities for accommodation beyond the common citizenship rights have traditionally been rejected with reference to the principle of ethnocultural neutrality. Because minority rights represent a radical departure from the ideal of a ‘civic nation’ or state neutrality, the burden of proof at the second stage of the debate lies with defenders of group-differentiated rights. As was discussed in the previous section, Kymlicka aims to meet this burden of proof by showing that cultural membership is the precondition of individual freedom and autonomy.
The view that the liberal state is indifferent towards the cultural identity of its citizens is increasingly being rejected. Taylor, for example, objects to the view that “difference-blind” liberalism operates culturally neutral: “Liberalism is not a possible meeting ground for all cultures, but is the political expression of one range of cultures, and quite incompatible with other ranges. As an “organic outgrowth of Christianity” Taylor notes, “liberalism can’t and shouldn’t claim complete cultural neutrality. Liberalism is also a fighting creed” (Taylor 1994: 62). Kymlicka, too, rejects the ideal of the ethnocultural neutral state. He points out that the religion model cannot be applied to the relationship between the state and ethnocultural groups. While it is possible for the state not to have an official religion, the state cannot help but operate its institutions in particular languages, thereby privileging speakers of this language and putting speakers of other languages at a distinct disadvantage. This does not happen by accident. In the case of the United States, for example, decisions about the boundaries of state governments were intentionally made in a way that ensured the dominance of the English language throughout the territory. Ongoing policies reinforce this dominance in several ways. Children are legally required to learn English in schools. To acquire American citizenship, immigrants are legally required to learn English. In practice, command of the English language is required for employment with the government or to secure government contracts. Kymlicka suggests that these decisions are not accidental exceptions to the principle of cultural neutrality, but tightly interrelated. Together, those decisions “have shaped the very structure of the American state, and the way the state structures society (Kymlicka 2001a: 25). The existence of nation-states is no coincidence, but the result of deliberate nation-building policies, adopted by governments to diffuse and promote a common language, culture, and sense of national membership. Among the tools of nation-building are citizenship policy, language laws, education curriculums, public service employment, support for national media, the drawing of internal boundaries, and national symbols. The underlying intention of nation-building policies is the promotion of integration into a single societal culture. As a result of guaranteed rights and freedoms, societal cultures in liberal democracies are inevitably pluralistic. However, linguistic and institutional cohesion intentionally constrains this diversity: Governments have deliberately encouraged citizens to view their life-chances as tied up with participation in common societal institutions that operate in one national language. By doing so, governments have supported a national identity defined in part by common membership in a societal culture. The United States are not an exception in this respect. Rather, promoting integration into the mainstream culture is a function of a ‘nation-building’ project that has been undertaken in all liberal democracies. All liberal-democratic states have historically been nation-building states : “they have encouraged and sometimes forced all the citizens on the territory of the state to integrate into common public institutions operating in a common language” (Kymlicka 2001a: 23). The process of nation-building inevitably privileges members of the majority culture and puts speakers of other languages at a disadvantage. Therefore, the model of the culturally neutral state must be replaced with a model of states engages in nation building, which offers a very different perspective on the debate about minority rights. Claims for minority rights must be understood in the context of, and as a defensive response to, state nation-building. This relationship is what Kymlicka calls the dialectic of state nation-building and minority rights. Thus, Kymlicka arrives at the third stage of the debate. At this stage, the question is not anymore how to justify deviation from the ideal of cultural neutrality. Rather, the question is whether minority rights help to protect against unjust disadvantages. The burden of proof at this stage is at least partly on those who object to minority rights.
Illustration 1: ct. Kymlicka 2002: 362
In this perspective it is not cultural neutrality what distinguishes liberal states from illiberal states. Indeed, Kymlicka suggests that nation-building has a legitimate role to play in liberal democratic societies. The benefits associated with nation-building will be introduced in section 7. What characterizes liberal states is not their cultural neutrality, but that majority nation-building is subject to certain limitations. So far, there is no systematic theoretical account on the liberal limits of nation-building. In a recent book, Kymlicka suggests the following three conditions:
1. No groups of long-term residents are permanently excluded from membership in the nation. Everyone living on the territory must be able to gain citizenship and become an equal member of the nation if he so wishes.
2. The integration required of immigrant groups is understood in a ‘thin’ sense, and involves primarily institutional and linguistic integration, not the adoption of particular sets of customs, religious beliefs, or lifestyles.
3. National minorities are allowed to engage in their own nation-building, to enable them to maintain themselves as distinct societal cultures (Kymlicka 2001: 48).
The third stage of the minority rights debate is closely associated with Kymlicka’s theory. The dialectic of nation-building and minority rights represents an important innovation in Kymlicka’s theory and the associated arguments in his theory will be discussed in more detail after his initial theory is outlined.
2. A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights
1. Two Patterns of Cultural Diversity
Any theory of group-differentiated rights must distinguish between various groups in order to assign certain specific rights to them. The major concern of this thesis is with the rights of indigenous peoples. However, outlining Kymlicka’s complete typology of cultural minorities will allow contrasting the nature and demands of various groups and make more plausible the specific rights this theory assigns to indigenous peoples.
The central distinction in Kymlicka’s theory differentiates between two patterns of cultural diversity: national minorities and ethnic groups (immigrant groups). According to this distinction, it is the mode of their incorporation into the political community what shapes the nature of a minority group, the identities of its members, and the form of relationship they desire with the larger society. While the existence of ethnic groups comes about by their voluntary migration, national minorities were involuntarily incorporated into larger states . The distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups has a descriptive and a normative dimension, which are not well separated in Kymlicka’s writing. On the descriptive level, the distinction asserts that in the real world various national minorities have relevant characteristics in common which they do not share with various ethnic groups and vice versa. On the normative level, the distinction suggests that it is justified to assign different rights to national minorities and to ethnic groups. Although Kymlicka does not explicitly make this point, it is consistent with the liberal point of view he is supporting: Because the basis of political legitimacy is the consent of the governed, it seems plausible to assign stronger cultural rights to groups whose members did not choose to join the political community (that is, persons who cannot said to have sign the social contract, to refer to the theoretical model central to liberal theory).
The distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups corresponds to and is closely associated with other important concepts and distinctions in Kymlicka’s theory. The table below presents these central terms and their relationships. Following a brief discussion of both types of groups, the argumentation will address each of the terms in the list and show how they relate to the initial distinction. The second part of this thesis will discuss cultural diversity in Cambodia in the light of these concepts. Part of this discussion is to assess whether or not those terms and concepts useful to describe and analyze Cambodia’s cultural minorities.
Ethnic Groups National Minorities
Multicultural States Polyethnic States Multination States
Source of Cultural Pluralism Immigration Colonization, Conquer, Annexation, Ceding
Mode of Incorporation Voluntary Involuntary
Model in Western Democracies Immigrant Multiculturalism Multination Federalism
Group-Differentiated Rights Polyethnic rights Self-government rights, special representation rights
Rationale, Purpose Integration Accommodation, Separation, Autonomy
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?
In the case of national minorities, cultural diversity arises from the coexistence of two or more nations within a given state. The term ‘nation’ here is used synonymously with ‘people’ or ‘culture’ and defined as “a historical community, more or less institutionally complete, occupying a given territory or homeland, sharing a distinct language and culture” (Kymlicka 1995a: 11). Consequently, a given country which contains more than one nation is a multination state and the smaller peoples form national minorities. National minorities form previously self-governing and territorially concentrated cultures. In most cases, the incorporation of national minorities into a state occurs involuntarily and often forcefully. In few cases, multination states come about by the voluntarily agreement between different cultures to form a federation. Many countries are multinational, since boundaries throughout the world were drawn to incorporate the territory of pre-existing, and previously self-governing, societies. Typically, national minorities want to maintain their existence as distinct societies alongside the national majority. In many instances, national minorities struggle to sustain or regain their institutions of self-government and their distinct language. Frequently, they demand some form of autonomy or various self-government rights to make certain the perpetuation of their culture (ct. Kymlicka 1995a: 10).
The second pattern of cultural diversity arises from the voluntary immigration of families and individuals. ‘Ethnic groups’ (or immigrant groups) are not ‘nations’ and do not occupy territories. The existence of ethnic groups in states comes about by individual or familial decisions to abandon the original culture and migrate to another society, leaving behind friends and families. Over generations, ethnic communities with some measure of internal cohesion and organization emerge. States which accepted significant numbers of individuals and families from other cultures as immigrants and allow them to maintain some of their ethnic particularity are polyethnic states. The distinctiveness of ethnic groups is expressed for the most part in family lives and voluntary associations. This is not inconsistent with their linguistic integration and participation in the public institutions of the majority culture. While immigrant groups have struggled for the right to express their ethnic particularity, they typically wish to assert this right in common public institutions: “While ethnic groups frequently demand 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” (Kymlicka 1995a: 11). Unlike national minorities, the recreation of the original culture is neither desirable nor feasible for immigrant groups. Rather, ethnic groups have typically accepted the expectation of their integration into the larger culture and the assumption that their children’s life-chances will be bound up with the language and institutions of the host society. Instead of resisting majority nation-building towards their integration into the larger society, immigrants frequently wish to renegotiate the terms of integration, to allow for the maintenance of various aspects of their particular ethnic heritage .
2. Indigenous Peoples
Generally, there is no universally agreed definition of indigenous peoples. While Kymlicka treats indigenous peoples as subcategory of national minorities, other theorists argue that indigenous peoples should be seen as entirely distinct category with specific rights. There are various justifications for singling out indigenous peoples for stronger rights, such as the scale of their historical mistreatment or their ‘radical’ cultural difference. In various writings, Kymlicka has altered and complemented his typology and has defined various sub-categories. However, the distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups remains a central feature of his theory. In recent works, Kymlicka suggests to subdivide national minorities into substate nation’ (or stateless nations) and indigenous peoples. In this view, the major difference is the groups’ role in the process of state-formation: “stateless nations were contenders but losers in the process of European state-formation, whereas indigenous peoples were entirely isolated from that process until very recently, and so retained a pre-modern way of life until well into this century” (Kymlicka 2001a: 122). While indigenous peoples existed outside the system of modern nation-states, substate nations aspired to such a state but lost in the contest and consequently do not have a state in which they form a majority. Substate nations find themselves sharing a state with other nations for reasons such as conquer, annexation, ceding, or royal marriage. Indigenous peoples are peoples whose homelands have been overrun by settlers, and who have been involuntarily incorporated into states run by people they regard as foreigners. In contrast to substate nations, indigenous peoples typically do not seek a nation-state with competing economic and social institutions. Rather, indigenous peoples tend to demand the ability to maintain certain traditional ways of life yet participating in the modern world on their own terms. As a starting point, indigenous peoples demand respect for and recognition of their culture to overcome their status as second-class citizen, non-citizen, or slaves. Kymlicka continues to stress that important characteristics are shared by substate nations and indigenous peoples. In particular, all these groups typically formed complete societies in their historic homeland prior to being incorporated into a larger state, and all those groups tend to resist state nation-building policies. The following picture provides an overview of one variation of Kymlicka’s typology.
Illustration 2 ct. Kymlicka 1995
In her recent book The Claims of Culture, Seyla Benhabib defends what she calls a dual-track conception of deliberative democracy. She devotes many pages to criticisms of various aspects of Kymlicka’s theory. In particular the distinction between national minorities and ethnic groups is subject to her objections. Firstly, she insists that a sharp distinction between those classes of groups is hard to sustain on the descriptive level. Whether or not this is a valid criticism is an empirical question and impossible to answer in the framework of this thesis. However, it should be pointed out that this distinction provides a meaningful description of cultural diversity in Cambodia, as the second part of this thesis will show. Secondly, Benhabib criticizes that the distinction insists upon the historical genealogy of the integration of groups which she claims is tantamount to cultural essentialism (Benhabib 2002: pp. 62). However, Kymlicka agrees that – in principle – ethnic groups can become national minorities and vice versa. Moreover, he admits that people do move between cultures do to integrate into other societies. What he insists upon is the value of cultural membership and what he questions is whether people who did not chose to immigrate should be required to integrate into the majorities language and institutions. Insofar, he cannot be blamed for cultural essentialism. Interestingly, Benhabib does not address the situation of indigenous peoples throughout her book. Only in the very end, Benhabib mentions that “… there are peoples whose cultural identity is rooted in ways of life attached to a particular region, territory, or hunting and fishing domain. These peoples are seeking not to preserve their languages, customs, and culture alone but to retain the integrity of ways of life greatly at odds with modernity … I think that from the standpoint of deliberative democracy, we need to create institutions through which members of these communities can negotiate and debate the future of their own conditions of existence. I follow Kymlicka … in advocating certain land, language, and representation rights for indigenous populations” (Benhabib 2002: pp. 184). It remains unclear what reason justifies this surprising move. Why should we create institutions through which members of indigenous peoples can negotiate their future but deny such institutions to members of stateless nations? Is it because indigenous peoples’ ways of life are ‘attached to the land’ or because those ways of life are ‘greatly at odds with modernity’? There does not seem to be any reason inherent to Benhabib’s theory of deliberative democracy which would support granting specific rights to indigenous peoples. Moreover, it seems that she falls herself into the trap of cultural essentialism, by indicating that attachment to land and premodern ways of lives are essential features of indigenous societies. In this view, members of indigenous peoples stop being indigenous as soon as they modernize their ways of live, lets say: drive cars, use self phones, or live in cities. This does not seem to respond to the aspirations of indigenous peoples who in most instances desire to incorporate elements of modernity into their cultures and yet demand recognition and protection of their existence as separate societies. Taken together, Benhabib’s theory of deliberative democracy does not allow understanding and explaining the different aspirations of various groups. Throughout her book, the specific political implications of her model remain unclear. In contrast to Benhabib’s concept, Kymlicka’s theory is particularly well suited to discuss and analyze cultural diversity, because it is comprehensive and capable of integrating and justifying the right of different classes of groups within a single and consistent theoretical framework. This case will be strengthened during the following chapters.
In line with both Benhabib’s and Kymlicka’s theory, current and emerging international law grants considerable levels of political autonomy to indigenous peoples. Yet in line with Benhabib’s theory and in contrast to Kymlicka’s, there is a strong tendency in international law to strictly separate questions of indigenous rights from the rights of stateless nations and other cultural minorities. Generally, the relevant declarations grant considerably more cultural rights – such as land claims and customary law – to indigenous peoples than to any other class of group. Under present international law, the specific rights of indigenous peoples are found only under ILO Convention No. 169. This convention does not define indigenous peoples. Rather, it contains a statement of coverage and a subjective criterion, stressing the self-identification of groups as indigenous peoples. However, the statement of coverage underlines that indigenous peoples live in historical continuity in a certain area since before the establishment of modern states, maintain a way of live different from other segments of the society, and retain their own institutions and organizations . Insofar, the ILO’s definition of indigenous peoples and Kymlicka’s distinctions are very likely to identify the same groups as indigenous peoples. The specific rights of indigenous peoples contained in Convention No. 169 are considerably different from human rights and other minority rights in that they are intended to allow for a high degree of autonomous development and allocates authority to those peoples so that they can make their own decisions (Eide/ Daes 2000: 8). Although referring to peoples, Convention No. 169 does not deal with the question whether indigenous groups have the right to self-determination. More far-reaching rights are proposed in the UN’s draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If ratified by the General Assembly, this declaration will determine in its article 3 that indigenous peoples have the right of self-determination and by virtue of that right be entitled freely to determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development. In its political implications, Kymlicka’s theory is highly consistent with both Convention 169 as well as the draft UN’s draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As both organizations have considerable operations in Cambodia, it is worth mentioning that the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have adopted policies designed specifically to provide guidance to staff to deal with indigenous peoples . And the definitions in both policies are likely to identify the same groups as indigenous peoples as does Kymlicka’s typology. The objective of the World Bank’s policy is to ensure “full respect for [indigenous peoples’] dignity, human rights, and cultural uniqueness (World Bank 1991: Article 6). It would not make much sense to respect indigenous peoples’ ‘cultural uniqueness’ and yet promote their integration. Insofar, the World Bank’s policy appears to promote the cultural survival of indigenous peoples, like the other concepts discussed in this section.
Again, while Kymlicka treats indigenous peoples as subcategory of national minorities, other theorists as well as international law tend to treat indigenous peoples as a distinct and separate category. However, this thesis won’t discuss that difference in debt, because it does not matter much to the Cambodian case. To anticipate an important insight of the second part of this thesis, applying Kymlicka’s typology to cultural diversity in Cambodia leads to the conclusion that there are no national minorities in Cambodia other than indigenous peoples. Put differently, there are no sub-state nations or stateless nations in Cambodia. In consequence, this means for Cambodia that all the concepts introduced in this section – namely: Kymlicka’s typology, Benhabib’s theory, Convention 169, the UN’s indigenous declaration, and World Bank and ADB policy – would single out indigenous peoples and grant various rights to sustain their distinct existence exclusively to these groups. While the last paragraphs dealt with different classes of groups, the next section will deal with different classes of group-specific rights.
3. Group-Differentiated Rights
For liberals, the protection of individual civil and political rights is of central importance to accommodate cultural difference. In many instances, the protection of those common rights is sufficient to provide space for cultural difference. However, liberal culturalists point out that in other instances it is only through measures beyond common citizenship rights that cultural differences can be accommodated. Kymlicka claims that virtually every modern democracy is using one or more group-specific mechanisms to accommodate cultural differences. He distinguishes between three forms of group-differentiated rights: self-government rights, polyethnic rights, and special representation rights. This typology is related to the initial distinction between ethnic groups and national minorities: in general, Kymlicka suggests that national minorities – including indigenous peoples – can legitimately demand self-government rights and special representation rights. In contrast, ethnic groups typically demand – and should be granted – polyethnic rights and possibly special representation rights.
Illustration 3: ct. Kymlicka 1995
Self-government rights typically involve the devolution of powers to a political subunit which is substantially controlled by the members of a minority group and which substantially corresponds to the group’s traditional homelands. Self-government rights in the form of some political autonomy or territorial jurisdiction are typically demanded by national minorities to ensure the free development of their cultures. Its most extreme form is secession. One way to acknowledge self-government is federalism, which divides powers between the central and various regional governments. It is particularly well suited were national minorities are living territorially concentrated, because the internal boundaries can be drawn so that the group forms a majority in one of the subunits. This can ensure that members of the group are not outvoted by the larger society on vital issues. Federalism is used in Canada to accommodate national diversity with regard to the Quebecois. Moreover, following the demands of the Inuit indigenous group, the Canadian government has approved the redrawing of federal boundaries, so that members of the Inuit form a partially self-governing majority in Nunavut, the eastern half of the Northwest Territories. Nunavut covers about one-fifth of the Canadian land mass (Levy 2000: pp. 307). In contrast, deliberate decisions in the United States were made not to utilize federalism for the accommodation of cultural diversity. Consequently, none of the United State’s existing sub-state units serves to secure self-government for a national minority (Kymlicka 1995: 29). However, self-government for national minorities in the United States is instead achieved outside the federal system (such as in Puerto Rico, Guam) and through political institutions inside existing states (such as Indian reservations). Kymlicka argues that the absence of constitutional protections has tended to make national minorities in the United States more vulnerable. At the same time, those mechanisms can be adjusted more flexibly to the needs and interests of various national minorities. In most cases in North America, federalism is not a valid option for indigenous peoples because they rarely form a majority in one of the sub-state units. Moreover, no redrawing of state boundaries would create majorities of indigenous peoples due to the large influx of settlers. Self-government for most indigenous peoples has been achieved through a system of reserved lands and substantial powers were devolved from the federal government to the tribal or band council. Increasingly Indian tribes or bands were able to acquire control over health, education, family law, policing, criminal justice, and resource development. In effect, they are becoming “a third order of government, with a collection of powers that is carved out of both federal and state/provincial jurisdictions” (Kymlicka: 1995: 30). Similar systems are being sough by indigenous peoples in many parts of the world. Kymlicka supports the view that the incorporation of indigenous peoples into states should be a voluntary act of federation, which recognizes those groups as distinct peoples and respects their inherent right to self-government over their homelands. In this view, indigenous groups should have the freedom to determine for themselves how to manage their traditional homelands within the constraints of principles of justice (Kymlicka 2001a: pp. 148). Self-government for national minorities is not seen as corrective, transitional measure for past oppression, but as inherent and therefore permanent.
Polyethnic rights are typically demanded by ethnic groups in polyethnic states. The demands of ethnic groups have challenged the expectation that their members would abandon all aspects of their cultural heritage. Their claims have gradually expanded beyond the rights to freely express their particularity without fear of discrimination in the larger society. Kymlicka argues that policies designed to prevent discrimination are primarily directed at guaranteeing the common rights of citizenship and should therefore not be considered group-differentiated rights. In contrast, polyethnic rights are positive measures such as the recognition of minority cultures in the curriculum or public funding of cultural practices, such as for ethnic organizations and events or for the provision of immigrant language education in schools. This is mostly defended on the grounds that public funding for art and culture tends to be biased in favor of majority cultural expressions. The most disputed demands are for exemptions from laws that appear to disadvantage members of religious groups, such as exemption from Sunday closing or animal slaughtering legislation for Jews and Muslims, exemptions from the helmet requirement while driving motor bikes for Sikhs, or exemptions from the official dress-codes in schools, police force and the military. According to Kymlicka, this sort of groups-differentiated measures – or ‘polyethnic rights’ “are intended to help ethnic groups and religious minorities express their cultural particularity and pride without it hampering their success in the economic and political institutions of the dominant society” (Kymlicka 1995: 31). Because the associated cultural differences are not meant to be eliminated, polyethnic rights are seen as permanent. However, the rationale of polyethnic rights is the promotion of integration, not self-government.
There has been increasing interest in the idea of special representation rights. The concern in many democracies is that the political process fails to reflect the diversity of the citizenry. This concern is not limited to cultural minorities, but includes any marginalized or disadvantaged group, such as sexual minorities, the disabled, and so on. The idea of special representation is that an appropriate proportion of seats in government bodies should be reserved for members of disadvantaged or marginalized groups. Special representation rights are usually being justified as response to systemic disadvantages in the political process which does not allow for the proper representation of the group’s views and interests. To the extent that these rights are meant to compensate for disadvantages, they are seen as temporary measure, because the removal of disadvantages eliminates the need for those rights. However, special representation is sometimes defended as a result of self-government, because those rights would be weakened if an external body could unilaterally abolish the associated powers. Because the claims for self-government are seen as inherent, so too are the measures of special representation which stem from it (Kymlicka 1995: pp. 131).
4. Societal Cultures
As was mentioned earlier, the position of liberal culturalism aims to show that some minority rights are consistent with liberal freedom and equality. In Kymlicka’s theory, it is the concept of societal cultures that offers the crucial connection between individual freedom and autonomy on one hand and the group on the other hand. In short, he argues that access to a societal culture is the precondition of the liberal value of freedom of choice. A societal culture is “ a culture which provide its members with meaningful ways of life across the full range of human activities, including social, educational, religious, recreational, and economic life, encompassing both public and private spheres” (Kymlicka 1995: 76). This notion of culture is closely associated with notions of ‘nation’ or ‘people’. Societal cultures exist territorially concentrated and contain a common language as well as shared institutions and practices. Kymlicka argues that the modern world is divided into such societal cultures .
Why is liberal freedom linked to the presence of such societal cultures? Kymlicka identifies individual freedom and autonomy as the defining features of liberalism. Liberalism allows people to choose among a wide range of conceptions of the good life. Moreover, liberalism grants the freedom to question those beliefs and to rationally assess and possibly revise those conceptions in the light of emerging information and new experiences. When people make choices about various conceptions of the good life, they do so based on beliefs about the values of social practices surrounding them. And to have such a belief about the value of particular practices requires an understanding of the meanings assigned to it by culture, language, and history. Whether or not an action or project has any significance to an individual depends on whether, and how, her language attaches meaning to this action or project. For the individual, understanding the cultural narratives provided by her history and language is the precondition of intelligent judgments among available options. It follows that societal cultures not only provide options to citizens, but make those options meaningful to them. Therefore, access to a societal culture is a precondition of liberal freedom and autonomy. Accordingly, group-differentiated rights which secure and promote this access for members of minority cultures should be seen as legitimate from a liberal perspective (Kymlicka 1995: pp. 82) .
Kymlicka stresses that immigrants and national minorities relate very differently to the majority culture. In general, national minorities maintain a societal culture, while ethnic groups do not. Accordingly, the claims of immigrant groups are best met not with self-government rights, but with polyethnic rights. Immigrant bring with them elements of their cultural heritage. However, they have uprooted themselves from their societal culture and left behind the associated set of societal institutions, to which language and historical narratives initially referred to. Even if immigrants would hope to re-create their societal culture, this would be impossible, since immigrants do not come as communities and settle territorially dispersed. In most liberal countries, immigrants are allowed and encouraged to maintain elements of their culture. This, however, is not a change in whether immigrants integrate into the majority culture but how they integrate. While immigrants maintain and nurture aspects of their cultural heritage, it does not take the form of recreating a distinct and institutionally complete societal culture alongside the majority culture. Rather, it contributes new options to the larger society. After a few generations the language of the host country becomes the mother tongue and learning the original mother tongue is not much different from learning a foreign language. For the children of immigrants, it is not their parents’ culture but the host society which provides meaningful options. Immigrants do not attempt to set up a separate societal culture, but ask to adapt the institutions and practices of the mainstream society to ethnic differences so to make the possession of an ethnic identity a normal part of life in the mainstream society (Kymlicka 1995: pp. 95).
The relationship of national minorities to the majority societal culture is different. Members of those groups did not choose to migrate to another state. They did not uproot themselves from their original culture, but formed ongoing societal cultures by the time they where incorporated into the majority culture. Their language and narratives were embodied in a complete set of institutions and social practices, covering the full range of social life and defining meaningful options to their members. National minorities have typically been determined to maintain and perpetuate their existence as distinct societal cultures, despite enormous economic and political pressures towards assimilation or integration. Those groups do not form subgroups within the larger society, but genuinely distinct societal cultures.
Can national minorities loose their capability to form and maintain their societal culture? In particular indigenous peoples have been coercively assimilated in many countries. In such cases, should the group be integrated into the mainstream instead of attempting to preserve what is already lost? Kymlicka notes that in fact a very small number of indigenous peoples has opted to give up their self-government rights and chosen to be treated as a disadvantaged ethnic group. While national minorities surely have no duty to perpetuate a distinct society, the decision whether or not to integrate must be made by members of those groups. Otherwise, the majority would have perverse incentives to profit from injustices towards national minorities, to destroy their societal culture and deny self-government rights based on that destruction. Kymlicka points out that, under appropriate conditions, weakened cultures can regain their strength and richness: “There is no reason to think that indigenous groups, for example, cannot become vibrant and diverse cultures, drawing on their cultural traditions while incorporating the best of the modern world …” (Kymlicka 1995: 100).
At this point it could legitimately be asked why people’s capacity to make meaningful choices depends on access to their own culture, as long as access to the majority culture is secured. No doubt, great numbers of immigrants where glad to integrate into other cultures and function well in their new societies. Kymlicka admits that indeed some people genuinely move between cultures. Yet he points out that even where integration is successful it is a difficult and costly process. People who did not voluntarily choose to move might not legitimately be required to bear the costs of integration. He suggests seeing the choice to leave one’s culture as equivalent to choose a life of perpetual poverty and enter a religious order (Kymlicka 1995: 86). It is taken for granted that the desire for material resources is so normal that people cannot reasonably be expected to relinquish those resources, although some people might voluntarily choose to do so. Analogues, Kymlicka argues that the attachment to one’s culture is usually too strong to be given up. If this is so, access to one’s own culture should be treated as something that people can be expected to want and to which they are entitled.
Another line of reasoning supports this case. Kymlicka argues that a system of open borders would dramatically increase the territory in which people could be treated as free and equal individuals. At the same time, such a system would render people’s own national community vulnerable to being overrun by settlers from other nations and would threaten their survival as a distinct society. Given this choice between increased mobility without borders on one hand and limited mobility but protected existence of the distinct culture on the other hand, most people have preferred the latter. For most people, it has been there nation in which they want to be free and equal individuals. In addition, few liberal theorists have advocated open borders. Rather, they have taken for granted that it is freedom and equality within the own culture what matters most to people: “In short, liberal theorists have generally, if implicitly, accepted that cultures or nations are basic units of liberal political theory” (Kymlicka 1995: 93).
5. Justifying Group-Differentiated Rights
Kymlicka offers three arguments in support of group-differentiated rights: the equality argument, historical agreements, and the inherent value of cultural diversity. As the discussion will show, the last argument is not well-suited to justify self-government rights for national minorities. Moreover, there are no treaties or historical agreements between the majority society and indigenous peoples in Cambodia. Therefore, the discussion here and in the second part will focus on the equality argument. In addition, the analogy between cultural minorities and the existence of states will be explored.
According to the equality argument, group-specific rights are needed to compensate for pervasive and morally arbitrary disadvantages that are faced exclusively by members of minority cultures. It asserts that group-differentiated measures are needed to ensure that all citizens are treated with genuine equality (Kymlicka 1995: 108). Minority groups are unfairly disadvantaged and the survival of their societal cultures is vulnerable to decisions made by the majority. Therefore, given the importance of cultural membership to individuals, this situation creates serious disadvantages for members of cultural minorities, which members of the majority do not face. Accordingly, various minority rights eliminate inequalities, rather than creating them. Group-differentiated rights can help to rectify disadvantages and alleviate the vulnerability of the minority culture. For example, self-government rights can provide members of national minorities with the opportunity to live and work in their own culture, something which is taken for granted by members of the majority.
As was discussed earlier, while governments can be neutral with regard to religion, state neutrality is impossible with regard to ethnicity and culture. While states can abstain from having an official religion, institutions are to be o