The Rights of Indigenous People in Cambodia: Linguistic Rights of Stieng

Author: Vong Meng (National Language Institute, Royal Academy of Cambodia)
Speaker: Vong Meng
Topic: Language minorities and majorities
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Stieng people have been living along a border of Cambodia and Vietnam. There are 6,761 Stieng populations living in Kampong Cham, Kratie and Mondulkiri province, Cambodia. These people speak Stieng as a native language and this language belongs to the South Bahnaric sub-group of Mon-Khmer languages. Only six indigenous languages have been applied in the public school from grade 1 to grade 3. The Stieng people have not yet had the right to use their language in the public school. “All language communities have the right to decide to what extent their language is to be present, as vehicular language and as an object of study, at all levels of education within their territory: pre-school, primary, secondary, technical and vocational, university, and adult education (UNESCO, Art 24, UDLR, Barcelona, Spain, 9 June 1996)”. The objective of this research is to investigate linguistic human rights of Stieng in Cambodia.

This research examines the three main factors. Firstly, this paper addresses what are the legal rights to minority languages and how are they protected in relation to the Stieng population. Many institutions promote the language rights of minorities in Cambodia, but the enforcement has not allowed Stieng language in schools because the development and political will move slowly. Secondly, the paper investigates the reasons why the Ministry of Education does not allow the Stieng people to use their language in the public school. Thirdly, the paper also investigates to what extent the lack of training in Stieng language affects the young generation’s ability to interact with the older generation effectively. Based on observations, inter-generational spoken communication is affected by younger generations lack of language accuracy and fluency. In addition, this paper monitors how the linguistic rights connect to non-discrimination, the use of the mother tongue in the public schools, and education in and about the mother tongue.

The research engages in two different methodological approaches. The issue of minority language rights will be subject to a desktop legal analysis, while the effects of the lack of language capacity will be subject to 30 semi-structured interviews with government officials, NGOs and Stieng people.


UNESCO. (2003). Social and Human Sciences. [online]. Available at: [Access 30 July 2016]