Minorities and Statelessness: Social Exclusion and Citizenship in Cambodia

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
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  • 1 Melbourne Law School, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, christoph.sperfeldt@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

More than 75 per cent of the world’s known stateless belong to minorities. Building upon ethnographic research conducted between 2008–2017, this paper considers the case of ethnic Vietnamese minority populations in Cambodia. Members of this group are long-term residents, having been born and raised in the country for generations, with the exception of the period during the Khmer Rouge regime when they were forcibly deported to Vietnam. Since their return to Cambodia in the early 1980s, individuals from this group have been regarded by Cambodian authorities as ‘immigrants’. This paper examines how discriminatory policies, laws and administrative practices regulate individual and collective identities, while creating categories that determine social inclusion and exclusion. In doing so, this paper makes visible the ambivalence of law and rights – both as tools for the construction of exclusionary citizenship, but also as instruments which minorities to contest their social exclusion.