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Minority Groups Want Apology for ‘Phnong’ Slur in Assembly Session

A mother and child of the Phnong tribal group rest after scouring for food in Kampong Pneu, a remote, poor region of northeastern Cambodia.

Community leaders of the Phnong minority group from northeastern Cambodia say they are considering legal action against a ruling party member of the National Assembly, for using their name as a slur against opposition lawmakers earlier this month.

In a session that was meant to pass a law to prevent nuclear proliferation, Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chheang Von decried opposition lawmakers as “savage Phnong,” a pointed insult in Cambodian culture that caused the opposition caucus to walk out of the session.

Yun Mane, head of the Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association, said the slur should not go unpunished, calling the insult “cruel.”

“We are asking him to apologize to the public and to minorities,” she said.

Chheang Von told VOA Khmer he had not meant to insult minorities in general, or the Phnong, also known as the Bunong, people.

“I meant it for those who do not respect the law, do not apply the law, are outlaws, have no civilization and no culture,” he said.