Cambodia: Nationalism, Identity, and Ethnicity Program

Cambodia Vietnam dialogue 2008

Cambodia-Vietnam dialogue 2010

Cambodian and Vietnamese participants sing a song of peace at the Cambodia-Vietnam dialogue in 2008.

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AFSC's Cambodia Nationalism, Identity, and Ethnicity Program focuses on Cambodian peacemakers — individuals and groups with a commitment to promote a peaceful society.

Southeast Asia is rich in cultures, languages, and ethnicities. For centuries, groups have migrated, engaged in trade, fought, and intermarried. Control of vast areas changed as empires grew and declined. The result: a rich tapestry of peoples and cultures.

Throughout this region, historical tensions and centuries-old rivalries still influence how people see their nation and themselves. Majority groups claim their own culture as the ‘national culture’ and marginalize minorities. Politicians use nationalism in negative ways to assert their own agenda or gain supporters, sometimes leading to disastrous consequences.

Approximately 90% of Cambodia’s population is Khmer and Buddhist. National identity in Cambodia is closely tied to Khmer ethnicity, and mixed or non-Khmer ethnicity is often hidden.

Moreover, a long history of turmoil and domination from neighboring Thailand and Vietnam has caused a deep sense of loss. Feelings of grievance are still strong and from time to time have erupted into mob violence.

AFSC's local partners have conducted research on attitudes and behavior, developed training materials on nationalism and ethnicity, held dialogues with youth from neighboring countries, sponsored youth camps to explore a multicultural Cambodia, and initiated development activities in Khmer/Vietnamese border communities. 

AFSC has also supported networking with other groups in the region working on issues of ethnicity and the sharing of skills, information, and experiences.

Read about Cambodia's Road to Peace.

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AFSC is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. Learn more

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