Nam Ratha: The Kui Speaker
By Khun Kim, Project Coordinator, Organization for the Promotion of Kui Culture
English translation by Norah Lay, Volunteer
Edited by Thaileak Nak, Linking and Learning Officer , Live and Learn Cambodia Voice Project Team
Nam Ratha is a 22-year-old indigenous youth living in Bongkern Phal village, Romtom commune, Rovieng district, Preah Vihear province. She is the fourth of six children. Nam Ratha graduated from grade 12th and went on to study at the University in Phnom Penh majoring in Information Technology (IT) for two years. She is a young girl who does not like community work and she does not speak her own native language much. She prefers speaking Khmer to her Kui language. Throughout her years in high school and college, she faced a lot of discrimination from friends and people around her. These factors made the young Ratha feel reluctant to speak in her native language both in daily communication with family and friends in the village.
In 2022, the Organization for the Promotion of Kui Culture (OPKC) staff hosted a meeting to promote their Voice-supported project on the importance of preserving the Kui language and their cultural identity to community members. The objective was to empower the community for them to be able to engage in advocacy with stakeholders standing for their rights as indigenous peoples. This project caught the young lady’s attention to start speaking her native Kui language with community members again. Futhermore, Ratha also helped in teaching Kui, Khmer and English languages to 30 children in the community. In addition to that, she participated in activities with community members, such as facilitating and leading youth groups to participate in community activities such as forest patrols, planting trees and protecting community lands of indigenous peoples. As a result of her active contribution, Ratha was elected as a commissioner for the 2023 national elections.
Nam Ratha mentioned that “Speaking Kui language is a way to preserve it for a long time, to not lose the native language of the Kui people and to make children understand the value of using the Kui language because the language is important for the Kui people. It is also the identity of the indigenous people.”
Nam Ratha was discriminated whenever she used her native language. She also received no encouragement from people around when she took inititatives in leading youth groups in her community. Despite discrimination from neighbors about the use of her native Kui language, Ratha never gave up. She overcame discrimination and challenges from outsiders because her love for her own native language and cultural identity is much stronger. Nowadays, she also helps train children and works with young people in her community as well.