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A Current of Nationalism, Not Extremism: Researcher

Lao Monghay, a former researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, talks to VOA on “Hello VOA” Monday.

Cambodians are experiencing an upsurge in nationalism thanks to a continued border dispute with Thailand, but a researcher says it has not veered toward extremism.

Lao Monghay, a former researcher for the Asian Human Rights Commission, told “Hello VOA” Monday that Cambodians are now cooperating in economy, trade and culture more closely.

However, he added, trade goods from neighboring countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam are still in high demand.

“In Cambodia, even though there is stronger nationalism, it has not been extreme,” he said. “We see that Cambodians don’t seem to discriminate or oppose the goods of their neighbors at all. Even Thai goods, there is no movement stirred up to boycott Thai goods.”

Cambodians from many walks of life have rallied around the perceived threat posed by border clashes with Thailand, with the fiercest clashes to date last month.

A border dispute near Preah Vihear temple, a cultural touchstone for many Cambodians, has elicited support for Cambodian soldiers. But there have been no violent demonstrations, such as those in 2003, when a Thai actress was rumored to have said Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand. The 2003 demonstrations escalated into a night of rioting and the burning of the Thai Embassy by a mob of Cambodian youths.

Lao Monghay said that kind of nationalism was dangerous and to be avoided.