Ethnic Minorities, Government Policies, and Foreign Relations: The Ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia

Asia Paper June 1, 2014, pp. 26

The main purpose of this study is to analyse the impact of government policies and foreign relations on ethnic minorities. This is done through two case studies from East Asia. The cases are: 1) the ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Sino-Vietnamese relations, and 2) the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia and Cambodia-Vietnam relations. Both cases display that inter-state relations can have considerable impact on the situation of ethnic minorities in neighbouring countries. The two cases also display that deteriorating inter-state relations can influence government policies toward ethnic minorities. In both cases deteriorating inter-state relations combined with government policies have caused large-scale migrations, in particular in the 1970s. The empirical evidence provided by the two cases and the lessons drawn from them are used to analyse the relationship between government policies and inter-state relations both in relation to the two cases and more broadly.
The two cases display the relevance of studying the triangular relationship between host country, country of origin, and ethnic minority. In both cases the minorities can be seen as diasporas in countries bordering on their country of origin. The case of the ethnic Chinese in Vietnam displays a case when the minority comes under pressure for a period of time due to a deterioration of relations between host country and country of origin. The case of the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia display a similar pattern of development coupled with a domestic situation in which the ethnic Vietnamese are facing negative repercussions due to the domestic political situation. Thus, the basic difference between the two cases is that the ethnic Chinese in Vietnam have been reintegrated into Vietnamese society while the ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia have not.