I have decided to make the final draft of my thesis here available. The file is about 0.56 MB and downloading it might take a minute.
Please find a short summary below.
In this text, I compare and contrast the situation and aspirations of indigenous peoples in Cambodia with theories of multicultural citizenship and minority rights that are emerging in contemporary political philosophy.
The first part of this thesis discusses political theories of multiculturalism, which will then be applied to cultural diversity in Cambodia. 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. Following a discussion of the importance of cultural membership for the individual, various arguments justifying certain group-rights will be introduced and assessed.
The argument will then turn to recent developments in political theory associated with the emerging position of liberal nationalism. The first part will be summarized in its final section with emphasis on the implications for indigenous peoples. Along the way, criticism leveled against Kymlicka’s theory will be put forward and discussed. The second part is primarily concerned with indigenous peoples in Cambodia. It will begin with a general overview of Cambodia’s cultural minorities. Afterwards, the incorporation of various groups into the Cambodian nation -state and their integration into Cambodia’s mainstream society will be discussed in light of the concepts introduced in the first part. The argument 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 in Cambodia with particular emphasis on the Royal Government’s current decentralization program. This part will include the results of empirical research carried out in three northeastern provinces, the objective of which was to assess the situation of indigenous peoples within the current decentralization process and to explore ways of better accommodating the rights of these peoples within the emerging framework of local governance.
Based on the research results as well as the earlier discussion, this paper will explore ways to better accommodate the needs and fair demands of indigenous peoples in Cambodia. Along the way, the validity and limitations of Kymlicka’s concepts in the Cambodian context will be assessed. The hypothesis is that Kymlicka’s theory provides a valid framework to analyze cultural diversity in Cambodia and to understand the challenges involved in accommodating various indigenous peoples. Accordingly, this paper supports the view that meaningful measures of self-government rights, language rights, land rights, and special representation rights for these groups are needed to allow them to sustain their existence as distinct societies. However, institutionalizing these rights is likely to take a shape 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 these groups’ accommodation.
The text concludes that a decentralized framework offers many opportunities for improved protection of indigenous rights, as well as for more inclusive democracy and highland peoples’ active participation. To realize those opportunities, differentiated measures to promote indigenous peoples are called for. Those measures should not be seen as ‘privileges’ or ‘special advantages’, but as balancing disadvantages exclusively faced by members of indigenous groups. A multination conception of decentralization helps to compensate for those disadvantages and to ensure that the value of cultural membership is equally protected for all citizens of Cambodia.