Thursday, May 25, 2006

Youn in Khmer language with its consequent misconception and controversy

I am an amateur researcher and a young Khmer boy who is overwhelmed with deep sentiment by foreign narrators about the word Youn. They have intentionally accused of Cambodian people are racist with the term Youn and they said it is pejorative. She compared it like the Americans use the word Nigger refering Black American, or he said it is the savage of Yavana. Of course, there are many Khmer scholars and researchers have already tried to clearify this. I just want to pick up some simple compromising outlining to bridge these two different alien worlds.

Firstly, I am a Khmer boy who has been much influenced with the term Youn by grand parents, parents, relatives, Khmer compatriots, literatures, folklores and history pages...etc described our eastern neighbor(presently Vietnam). The word Youn always come up with both positive and negative depending on the speakers. It is common that a race or nationality can exist of both good and bad in their intimate relationship. So Youn is common for Khmer people to say this word. And it can be interpreted as bad or good according on physical expression, tonation voice or prefix and suffix. For example, if we say "A Youn, Mii Youn, Youn Kontob, Youn Srokey Dong or Chor Youn"; it is absolutely pejorative. But if we say "Bong Paoun Youn, Mit Youn"; it is absolutely positive. So the term "Youn" could not be considered as RACIST or PEJORATIVE like what David Roberts and Trudy Jacobsen described in their articles.

Both Roberts and Jacobsen may claimed themselves that they know Khmer well. But my opinion is that nobody knows Khmer better than Khmers know themselves. Nobody understands the Khmer language better than Khmers understand their own language. Nobody comprehends the term Youn used by Khmer better than Khmers themselves.

Otherwise, we are Khmers are not blind conservative to out-dated past or indulgent with modern foreign influences and doctrination. Everything must go a long with the causes and effects. It must be thoroughly investigated by our efforts, insights and wisdom.

In the past, we had many races in our region like Khmer, Mon, Siam, Laos, Youn, Cham and Java. Among these ancient tribes, Khmer, Mon, Cham and Java are considered dominant in South East Asia. But, Mon is gradually ransacked by Siam and Burma. Cham is totally swallowed by Youn. Khmer is also almost subjugated by Siam and Youn. Present, Khmer consists their land as small as a leave of Bodhi Tree. And she has been frequently terrorized by two giant neighbors through hundreds of year with their strategies of imperialism and extensionism. These two countries have changed their country name and race such as from Siam to Thai and Thailand, from Youn and Namviet to Vietnam and Vietnamese. But we are Khmers are proud to remain our race name to be called Khmer. Our Khmer race is still shattering in Southern Vietnam and Eastern Thailand. Our Khmer lagacy is still scattering in the whole region.

I think those foreign researchers cannot fathom the sorrow of Khmer people throughout their long history; and most of the time the Khmer victims have become the victimizers. It is really unjustic for human beings that are always treated with greed, arrogance, hatred, prejudice and delusion by some people. Of course, the weak must be nurtured and the wicked must be condemned.

Nigger or Nigro word in America is considered as racist because of those new comers tried to eliminate, suppress and enslave them, and called them Nigger. But Youn in Cambodia, Khmers have called them to refer a race who has shared a long history with Cambodia. Most of the time, the new comers of Youn has tried to eliminate, suppress and derogate Khmer people. In our both history pages of Cambodia and Vietnam and the foreign researcher like David Chandler have repeated the victory of Youn, the persecution, the manipulation and the enforcement. For example, they forced Khmer people to dig two long canals. And their manipulation and extensionism policy toward Cambodia is consideringly still implementing in our 21th century.

Actually, Khmers have to adapt themselve in the new age of globalization and technology. We don't hold a strong addiction of any dogmatism or attachment. We have to be flexible; and we learn from wrong to right, not from right to wrong. There are many choices for us, but we will choose the most valuable one. We utilize our free will in which results from our right understanding and right vision. We would like to say thank you for your concerning of Cambodia. But somehow and somewhat, we are Khmers have our own integrity and freedom to destine our destiny. At least, Khmers can sum up with a joint statement that "Nobody knows Khmers better than Khmers themselves. Nobody understands Khmers better than Khmers themselves. Nobody can strenghten Khmers better than the unity of Khmers themselves."

By Bhikkhu Vodano - Canada

Read more articles relating with this issue:
1. Is Using the Word Yuon Justified and Beneficial for Khmer? by Kenneth So
2. Jacobsen history challenged by Touch Bora & Truong Mealy
3. Kampuchea Krom: the friction after the facts by Trudy Jacobsen

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