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While in Siem Reap, I did a day tour to Angkor Wat and then went on to visit one the Vietnamese floating villages at Tonie Sap Lake. Funny thing, my Taxi driver, a very likeable young guy and aspiring tour guide, gave me some insight on race relations between the Vietnamese and Cambodians,. According to him, there are e about 4-5 million Vietnamese in Cambodia; a lot of migrated to Cambodia after the Communist regime toppled Pol-Pot’s Khmer Rouge in 1979, thereby liberating Cambodia of one of the most brutal regimes of the 20th century. Most of the Vietnamese in Cambodia, are poor and relatively humble people, many of them eke a living from fishing and live in floating villages like the one I was visiting at Tonie Sap. Officially, the numbers of Vietnamese living in Cambodian is only 100,000 but it is has been estimated there are up to 5 million; a more realistic number is about 2-4 million, but as far as the exact number, no one really knows.
According to my friend, a lot of the Vietnamese have displaced Cambodians in the workplace, which has generated a lot of animosity of Cambodians. What really was disturbing was the remark my guide made - if he was in power, he would try to exterminate or liquidate all the Vietnamese from his country a la Pol Pot style. Now, I know he was joking when he made this comment but it does reflect the prevailing attitude of Cambodians visa vis the Vietnamese.
Funny thing, all the gals who worked in the karaoke bar and massage parlors that my restaurant buddy took me to were Vietnamese. Let’s face it, about 20-25% of the inhabitants of Cambodia are Vietnamese, and insomuch as the Khmers and the Vietnamese never got along historically, there is a lot of hostility between these two groups.