Cambodian opposition leader accused of touting anti-Vietnamese racism

As violent anti-government protests raged in the Cambodian capital, cafe owner Sok Minh hoped concentrating on his small business would keep him sheltered from the violence.
But that changed in January, when rioters stormed his shop, chanting "Yuon", a derogatory term used against the Vietnamese community.
"When they came in, they said they must destroy "Yuon's" shop," Mr Minh said.
"I am just an ordinary business man. I don't pick fights with anyone.
"Now they destroyed my shop. I lost everything."
Sok Minh was not at the cafe at the time of the attack, but his Khmer staff member, Chhorn Chanthy, was.
"When they came in, they destroyed everything with stones," Ms Chanthy said.
"Three of us went to hide in a room. After a while, I came out and pleaded with them that "I am Khmer. Don't beat me."
"They said "if you are Khmer, take all your belonging and go away."
Although the level of racism in Cambodia is difficult to measure, anecdotal evidence suggests anti-Vietnamese sentiment has been on the rise for some years.
Last week, a 28-year-old Nguyen Van Chyen was killed after an alleged racist mob attack.
Opposition accused
Cambodia has a contentious history of land grabs and deforestation, with displaced communities given little or no compensation.
Much of the land is converted into rubber plantations, and the company that has benefited the most is the state-owned Vietnam Rubber Group, which owns at least 130,000 hectares; that is 13 times the legal limit.
Cambodia's opposition leader Sam Rainsy has accused Prime Minister Hun Sen's administration of selling out the country's interests.
"We are concerned about deforestation, about farmers losing their farmland, losing their livelihoods, about the destruction of the environment," he said.
However, many say Mr Rainsy has overstepped the mark in his criticism of Vietnamese companies.
"If you look at the last six, seven years, through economic land concessions, many of the Cambodian local people have been victimised by the scheme – those are legitimate human rights political issues," said Ou Virak from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
"But I think because race and anti-Vietnamese sentiment is high, the Opposition is taking the most convenient position."
The issue has even prompted a strong rebuke from the United Nation's special rapporteur, Professor Surya Subedi.
"Cambodian citizens of Vietnamese origin came to see me with their own grievances, saying they feel a bit insecure and racially harassed and partially discriminated against," he said.
Prof. Subedi said he received a direct apology from Mr Rainsy, but said that was not the end of the matter.
"I think it will need to be further scrutinised and closely monitored."
Sam Rainsy said there has been a misunderstanding and some of his statements have been taken out of context.
"I think that people will understand the position of Cambodian patriots who just want to defend the interest of their country, and uphold democratic values so that the will of the people prevails."