Photo: Within the grounds of the Royal Palace.

Cambodia forum

Cambodia Kingdom of Racists

Posted by breezy7 on 31/10/2012 at 08:22

I was in Sihanoukville Cambodia earlier this year having just arrived on my moto outside a bakery. I noticed that I had blocked in 2 Cambodian women on a moto when I heard one say to the other " There is a Chikay (dog ) behind you". I looked around for a dog when I realized that they were referring to ME. For some reason Cambodians like, with a huge sneer on their face to call foreigners Chikay, or dogs. But this is the worst of all insults in their culture and is totally racist. Outside the Coolabah Hotel in S'ville I heard a Tuk Tuk driver shout out to the street, when a customer came out and refused a lift "F**k, all the Chikay (dogs/foreigners) are walking today!" I heard a similar thing in Phnom Penh from moto drivers near the riverside "Whoop! There are many Chikay (dogs/foreigners) out tonight Tee hee!". While passing a bar in S'ville I even heard a girl hostess call to me "Hello Chikay!" And in Phnom Penh in a bar where Cambodian girls go to meet foreign men I overheard one say to a friend on the phone "Oh we are leaving here now because there are no Chikay here". Black friends say the same to me. Africans, Americans and English say that the Cambodians only call us Kmoa (black) and nothing else! I even heard of one Cambodian waitress apologize to a customer about the bad smell of a black customer. And a white foreign friend whose Cambodian girlfriend asked a Cambodian friend for her opinion of him got the reply "he stinks". That is the limit! In 1979, 500,000 Cambodian refugees fled to Thailand from the Khmer Rouge. They were rotting, stinking, corpses on two feet. And who were waiting to help them FOREIGNERS all of them - doctors, nurses and aid workers. Funny that the Cambodian sensitive sense of smell towards foreigners was absent then. And later the Cambodian refugees all waited and begged for FOREIGN families to take them in abroad. WELCOME TO : CAMBODIA - KINGDOM OF RACISTS

#1 breezy7 has been a member since 31/10/2012. Posts: 2

Posted by gregmccann1 on 31/10/2012 at 10:57

I think the use of "Chikay" reflects a low level of education rather than a form of nasty racism. Just put it behind you; don't hate the Cambodians for it, and not all of them talk that way.

#2 gregmccann1 has been a member since 28/10/2009. Location: Taiwan. Posts: 182
 Website 


Posted by caseyprich on 31/10/2012 at 19:03

There is a sweet irony to your thread title. I'd be more likely to take your post seriously if you hadn't been so inflammatory. There is a problem with racial stereotyping (even among different ethnic groups in here) in China, and it is often common in very homogenous cultures to simply label people who are different with "otherness" labels. Though not polite, in China you'll often be called laowei, something you just have to get used to - and much nicer than the "black devil" that my African friends have to deal with. It is something that I agree should change, but as gregmccann1 noted, it has more to do with being less educated than any actual bias. A little compassion could be in order also, if we think about the situation many of the less educated and lower class are in in parts of East and SE Asia - they are often in China called "nongming" a word that simply means farmer but has one of the worst connotations of dirty-poor-ignorant.

#3 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
 Where has caseyprich been? 

Posted by exacto on 31/10/2012 at 19:47

"I'd be more likely to take your post seriously if you hadn't been so inflammatory."

I agree with casey. I'd also be more likely to take it seriously if this wasn't the OPs first and only post. Plus, it seems kind of racist to assume an entire race is racist based on the actions of just a few people.

We've had these conversations on the forum before about southeast Asian racism. From what I remember, the consensus was that there is a thread of racism in the local cultures, but it isn't necessarily the nasty kind - pretty much like greg mentioned above. Lots of times westerners get a free pass or preferencial treatment just because they are westerners too.

Anyway, I wouldn't let this get you down no matter who you are. As a honky gweilo cracker howlee long-nose infidel goy farang myself, you just get that sometimes. Cheers.

#4 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,606
 Where has exacto been? 

Posted by mickeymouse on 2/12/2012 at 23:29

I have visited Cambodia before and never had issue about this. People are all different, some are nice and others aren't. Maybe it is just misunderstanding of the use of languages, it may seem that they use certain slang which sounds like racism.

Just try not to take it seriously, I mean we can't stop them from doing so but do not let it bother you so much, ignore it...we are who we are, who cares what they said.

Stereotyping is so common and there is really nothing we can do. I am an asian myself and you know? being asian woman can be troublesome when you go travel but I won't let it get into my head.

#5 mickeymouse has been a member since 2/12/2012. Posts: 9

Posted by MADMAC on 3/12/2012 at 00:06

The OP has a hard on for Cambodians and Cambodia. Every post seems to be a negative one on the topic.

#6 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by busylizzy on 3/12/2012 at 02:02

He's only made one other post (on TF) which has a similar theme.

But after doing some quick research, he appears to have made similar ones on Travelpod, and no doubt elsewhere. I put some links on his previous TF post.

I suspect now that he's had his rant we won't hear from him again.

#7 busylizzy has been a member since 31/12/2007. Location: New Zealand. Posts: 2,155
 Where has busylizzy been? 

Posted by Ova on 19/12/2012 at 10:42

Yeah, it's a good thing there are no racist people in Western Countries.
Foreign people and people of different ethnicities are always well accepted, and everyone is always friendly and welcoming with newcomers...

You basically hear 4 or 5 people being racist (which is not even certain after reading other comments), and you deem the whole country as racist. Now, this seems like a legit statement..

#8 Ova has been a member since 14/12/2012. Posts: 15

Posted by Sovandy on 25/12/2012 at 06:39

Oh Dear It's not like that. I am a Cambodian and I don't think they would say that kinds of things, Cambodian people are friendly. Since I was born I never heard anyone call a foreigner Chi keir or Dog not even once. Maybe you confuse with their sounds or maybe you're just trying to abuse us. We are not Racist we have a wonderful culture to respect elders and environment, not to talk naughty in public like you said.

#9 Sovandy has been a member since 25/12/2012. Posts: 1

Posted by sayadian on 25/12/2012 at 13:36

I think the last post says it all. The OP has put up a deliberately inflammatory heading and I imagine it must cause anger among Khmer people who chance on it.
At the moment it tops the message board and the title gives the wrong impression to those logging in for the first time. TBH. It's distasteful.

#10 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by taorathey on 28/12/2012 at 23:14

" We are not Racist we have a wonderful culture to respect elders and environment, not to talk naughty in public like you said." In point of fact many Cambodians consider their standards of etiquette appropriate for Cambodians only, not all to be sure. As for respecting environment one only has to look along the sides of the roads at illegally deposited debris and garbage or measure the pollutants that are freely added to land and water. However, none of this points to real racism which does indeed exist in spite of all righteous denial. My wonderful Cambodian wife and I have been married for ten years and have two children, 8 & 9 years old. My mother-in-law does not recognize them as Cambodian even though they have a Cambodian mother, were born in Cambodia and speak Cambodian as their first language. According to moms, they will have to marry a "pure" Cambodian and their offspring will again have to do the same so that the lmatter will eventually achieve the state of "pure " Cambodian genes. Let us ignore for a moment the myth of purity in the Cambodian race. In fact the only pure Cambodians are "hmer leu" or hill tribe people who probably migrated here from Africa many centuries ago. It is quite similar to the situation in the US where Indians are the only pure Americans. Nonetheless, I must add in all fairness to moms she doesn't treat my offspring any differently than she does those of my wife's younger sister who is married to a pure Cambodian.

Now as for impolite words I know quite a few and they were all taught to me by natiee Cambodian speakers, There is the ubiquitous "cho ma" and the equally offensive "kdui mail wie and prawhaung kdeut:" The only time I ever felt called upon to become violent was years ago in Phnom Penh. My wife and I were walking down the street when a 30 year old moto driver used a word for sex that is reserved for animals (peak knia) I dropped my wife off at home returned to the street corner and in the process of admiinistering street justice severely skinned my knuckles which became quite swollen. When my wife saw that she told me not to do it again or I would end up fighting more people than I should at my age. Frankly for me I do not care if someone chooses to insult me, but if you insult my wife you have crossed the line of no return.advice

Of course, because I have lived here for years and am not a tourist passing through, my situation is somewhat different. But I do suggest you follow my wife's advice (failing that- possibly my example) and don't take offense. A lot of the anger is based on jealousy. The poor, working & otherwise, have lost much not only during the Pol Pot government, but also under the current administration. It is a country that is under going much turmoil due to rapid change that benefits only the rich. Get to know the good guys; they are resilient and really friendly.

#11 taorathey has been a member since 28/12/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by sayadian on 29/12/2012 at 05:30

A lot of the above makes sense but if it is jealousy based why don't they give their own people the same treatment? After all, there are plenty of displays of ostentatious wealth by Khmers.
Don't worry just a rhetorical question. I know the answer. They would be dealt with very quickly if they insulted a wealthy Khmer.

#12 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by stoneman on 25/1/2013 at 05:23

In my opinion a country that has a common word for every person who doesn't look like they were born there & speaks the language is a country with a racist culture. I'm referring to 'barang' in Cambodia and 'falang/farang' in Thailand. These descriptions are used freely. It is burned in to their mentality.

If I walked around Australia calling every person who doesn't look Australian a 'foreigner' I would be labelled a racist (and probably get 'labelled' a few other ways as well).

If I upheld the principles of political correctness I would feel offended in Cambodia & Thailand. But given my understanding of their mentality, I am not offended, I just don't give a rat's ar.e. I'm only there for a good time not a long time.

#13 stoneman has been a member since 8/5/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 100

Posted by caseyprich on 25/1/2013 at 20:27

By Australian looking do you mean Aboriginal people? Seriously though, many of these cultures have words for foreigners or outsiders because they have historically been very closed off. There are certainly tones of xenophobia in Chinese culture, but often the application of the word Laowai has more to do with a recognition of otherness and a gawking mentality - I don't think it registers the same as racism. I say this because there is a largely racist under-current in Chinese culture that I noted above - that is directed to black Africans but much more directly to the Uighur people of Xinjiang who are stereotyped as thieves and drug dealers, a pox on otherwise good Han society. I think if we are going to refer to racism we need to differentiate between actual racism, and what could otherwise be characterized as a sense of homogeneous culture being confronted with otherness, or possibly a class-based reaction to ostentatious wealth and reaction to possibly being treated poorly by these outsiders in the past and holding a grudge. Really, the basic point is that these experience need to be taken on a case by case basis and labeling an entire culture racist because they have a word that signifies 'the other' is perhaps a step too far.

#14 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
 Where has caseyprich been? 

Posted by sayadian on 25/1/2013 at 22:36

That's opening a can of worms. The working class people of East End, London traditionally saw it their right to get subsidised housing. After all, the houses were built so local people born and brought up there could remain without being driven out of the close knit family community by London's high house prices. Then came a wave of mostly Bangladesh families arriving in large numbers and living in overcrowded conditions in this part of London for the work. Being overcrowded they jumped the points based housing qualification system. Deep resentment followed and was termed racist .Is this a case of 'homogeneous culture being confronted by otherness' or racism? How would you feel if you saw newcomers jumping the line?

#15 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by caseyprich on 25/1/2013 at 23:42

I'll admit I speak from an American perspective. Our communities are often in flux, the west side neighborhood I grew up in was largely Polish and Irish, but today it is full of Taco stands and South American grocery stores. On Pulaski day the Polish halls open their doors to everyone and on Cinco de Mayo the streets are crowded with a carnival atmosphere. If one of my Irish family was sitting on his porch denouncing the influx of 'derogatory word for mexicans here' a number of people would be offended and I think you could classify that as racist because our larger community has been built on diversity. We have gone (not completely of course) through the problems of the original White Anglo-Saxon Protestants having to cope with the integration of at first largely Catholic and Eastern European settlers, then South European Catholics and post-reconstruction African-Americans, and now struggle with immigration from the South.

When I define the "homogeneous culture" in my earlier post I am not talking about a neighborhood or even a province - but the long historical isolation of Chinese and many SE Asian cultures from otherness - often an isolation mandated by the authorities in power. This is a deep seated and historical xenophobia with complex roots. I think that such xenophobia is different than what we define as racism in the west. Though these terms can be conflated, and have been, I think from personal experience I would say that being called 'farang' or 'laowei' does not strike me as racist in the generally accepted sense of the term. In fact, it is often descriptive, being a legacy of isolation but not holding any judgement. The Chinese will straight up tell you that they think you're fat or put on weight, so why wouldn't they say "foreigner" when they see a white guy step off the bus int he middle of nowhere Yunnan province?

I think comparing the use of a word that means 'outsider' to resentment building because of an influx of legal immigration is reductionist. We also need to look closely at behavior and not just feeling of resentment. When the Cambodian says "barang" is this followed by an offer to sit down, perhaps even a a quizzical watching of the 'barang's' strange behavior but no further incident? Are people on the East end ultimately welcoming to these new families or are they joining the BPP and harassing shop owners? Again, I think there are certainly individuals who are behaving poorly toward foreigners in these countries - but I don't think that is a sign of a country-wide racism, however, I do accept a very endemic xenophobia that sets the 'we' apart from the 'other'.

#16 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
 Where has caseyprich been? 

Posted by sayadian on 27/1/2013 at 04:28

Funny I never feel offended by being called barang but I dislike farang. Maybe it's the way it is said.The Khmer are a gentle people whereas the Thais usually accompany it with that superior sneer.

#17 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by sayadian on 27/1/2013 at 04:29

Funny I never feel offended by being called barang but I dislike farang. Maybe it's the way it is said.The Khmer are a gentle people whereas the Thais usually accompany it with that superior sneer.

#18 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by caseyprich on 27/1/2013 at 06:01

It's the sneer that'll get you. I don't have enough experience of that in Thailand, I was in Chiang Mai and Ko Chang areas where I think they are enjoying the dividends of foreign travelers - my mainstay is China where it is more of an exclamation than anything else.

#19 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
 Where has caseyprich been? 

Posted by taorathey on 27/1/2013 at 17:02

First of all the word "barang" is the Cambodian word for Frenchman(woman)and is both singular and plural. There is a more proper word for foreigner which is "borathei". The former word is the one used mostly by rural Cambodians and the second is the more educated word. There is nothing "homogenous" about Cambodian culture. However, some Cambodians do refer to themselves as "khmer seut" or pure Cambodian. It may be a kinder gentler form of racism, but it is racism nonetheless.

#20 taorathey has been a member since 28/12/2012. Posts: 5

Posted by caseyprich on 27/1/2013 at 17:36

I"m not sure what racism means when it is defined that way. First you stipulate that it is mostly the under-educated people in he rural country-side who are using this word. These are people largely un-exposed to foreigners and foreign influence, and whose lack of education re-enforces these trends of isolation. I don't see any proof that this is not simply poor manners. When large parts of the community use these words, you as the outsider may take it as offensive, but that does not mean you have access to their intention. I'm sure in some instances it has been used in a derogatory way, but that does not mean that every time it has been said that it has been derogatory . It is simply not that black and white.

Xenophobia is a fear of or distancing from 'the other', so in some ways I find even that word too strong. Racism is a hatred and contempt for the other. These are two sides of a similar coin - but I'm not convinced it is even the coin we are looking it.

#21 caseyprich has been a member since 3/3/2010. Location: China. Posts: 1,281
 Where has caseyprich been? 

Posted by stoneman on 3/2/2013 at 05:05

sayadian & caseyprich, I'd probably learn a lot more from you than the other away around. My comment was based on from what I have learned from only 2 visits to Cambodia & 6 visits to Thailand plus extensive reading on the internet. I take your point sayadian re the Thais use of farang. It is much much more pronounced in their culture compared to Kmers.

Many westerners complain about dual pricing ie one price for foreigner and one for locals. Clearly discrimination, but I just accept it as another opportunity to cash in on people visiting their country. I believe this will change down the track.

At the end of the day, returning to the OP's post, I simply ignore racist/derogatory comments by people these days. Every country has people prepared to make vocal comments of a negative nature. Probably more so in a third world country because they are less fearful (if any) of potential legal repercussions.

I'm simply intent, for the few years I have left, to continue to be polite to everyone and turn my back on those I find objectionable.

Life's too short. Cheers

#22 stoneman has been a member since 8/5/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 100

Posted by jacen on 6/11/2015 at 06:15

Some of the khmers are racist and quick to insult and resort to violence.They are also good thieves.Ive had my wallet stolen 2 times in phnom penh.Some will also try and rip you off.I rented a bike when I brought it back they said it was damaged though nothing happened.They forced me to pay for a replacement part by holding onto my passport until I had payed.In any accident involving a barang no matter if the khmer is responsible the barang will be blamed and often extorted for cash.Another thing some khmers like is to quote a higher price to a barang for a product than to a
Khmer.After helping many begging khmers with some money when i needed a dollar of petrol to get home and had no money only a $1metphone voucher,it was only on my 4th attempt that a khmer helped me.They love there loi money and will gladly take as much cash from you as they can.A mixed bunch with some very nasty characters among them, though some are quite pleasant as long as you have money.

#23 jacen has been a member since 6/11/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by Gogomobile on 6/11/2015 at 06:49

Lots of racism in SEA.

#24 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 415

Posted by jacen on 6/11/2015 at 08:27

Well gogomobile Cambodia is the worst Ive seen for crime deception and unique crazy sights.I saw a group of khmer men kicking and punching a thief after they caught him.One khmer was about to run with his knee into this young khmer thiefs head possibly causing him brain damage,until I told him to stop ,a policeman stood and watched,i told the policeman it could kill him, only then did he speak and stopped his beating.
After many trips to cambo ive seen its dark side though there are also some warm khmers that ive met,been invited to drinks with other khmers and enjoyed myself.
The khmer women can scratch and stab you.I saw twice a barang women get robbed by a pair of khmer men on motos .I chased one but the 100 cc moto and craziness of his driving the wrong way on a one way road meant he got away.I saw another couple of khmer moto thieves again in pairs try to steal a moto till they saw its padlock.Another time a girl jumped onto my bike then snatched my wallet and ran to her waiting khmer bf on a bike.I struggled with both and managed to get my wallet back .If the victim had of been khmer he would of got a public beating but because I was a barang I was told to go by an arriving security guard.my khmer gf took me to a police and we came back with a policemen with an ak47.The thieves were gone.In other sea nations Ive seen none of this.

#25 jacen has been a member since 6/11/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by Gogomobile on 6/11/2015 at 11:01

It is a dodgy 3rd world country with a history of extreme violence.

#26 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 415

Posted by MADMAC on 4/12/2015 at 12:19

"It is a dodgy 3rd world country with a history of extreme violence."

Cambodia or England?

#27 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by FreddyTravelZombie on 23/12/2015 at 08:32

I didn't feel something like that although i have noticed that at the areas with big waves of tourists after a while locals become arrogant and aggresive for some reason. On the one hand they like the money but on the other they are fed up with the tourists. They should be more polite but that's a thing that happens everywhere.

#28 FreddyTravelZombie has been a member since 23/12/2015. Posts: 9


Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.