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Vietnam Authority Denies a Khmer Krom Buddhist Monk to Visit His Family in His Ancestral Land

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Pennsauken, NJ, USA, 2 April 2010 On April 1, 2010, a Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk, Venerable Thach Vesna flying from Bangkok to Prey Nokor (renamed Ho Chi Minh) city was denied entry into the country. A student monk studying in Thailand and the holder of a Cambodian passport, Venerable Thach Vesna was planning to celebrate the Cambodian New Year with his family in Preah Trapeang (renamed Tra Vinh) province. At 9a.m, Venerable Thach Vesna arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport and handed his Cambodian passport to a Vietnamese immigration officer. The Vietnamese immigration officer denied his entry stating that it was of “National Security Concern”. When Venerable Thach Vesna asked them to explain what they meant by “National Security Concern”, the Vietnamese immigration officers could not give a legitimate answer. Instead, they tried to force him to fly back to Bangkok. When the Vietnamese immigration officers realised that Venerable Thach Vesna refused to go back to Bangkok, they summoned thirty police officers to monitor him. Three of them closely followed Venerable Thach Vesna even when he went to use the Restroom. They denied his attempts to contact the Cambodian Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City. With officers surrounding and monitoring his movements, Venerable Thach Vesna could not go and find food for his once a day meal. According to Theravada Buddhism, the Buddhist monks cannot eat food after 12p.m., thus he did not eat anything since the 12p.m. the previous day. When the plan to convince Venerable Thach to go back Bangkok failed, the officers tried to recruit Venerable Thach Vesna as a secret agent to monitor the activities of the Khmer-Krom living abroad. Venerable Thach Vesna refused to cooperate with them. With the last flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok leaving at 6p.m. and Venerable Thach Vesna refusing to leave, the Vietnamese polices resorted to the use of physical force to remove him from the immigration area to the gate of the airplane. Vietnam has been elected as the President of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2010. Vietnam should set an example by respecting the visa exemption agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam to allow their citizens to freely travel between their two countries. Venerable Thach Vesna is merely a Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk, who practices the non-violence principles of Buddhism and carries a legitimate Cambodian passport. He has no criminal record; all he wanted to do was visit his family during the Cambodian New Year. In this regards, we would like to urge the Vietnamese government to stop using tactics and excuses of “National Security Concern” to stop Khmer-Krom living abroad from visiting their families in their ancestral land of Kampuchea-Krom. Especially, if the Vietnamese authorities do not have a valid excuse to deny Venerable Thach Vesna’s right to visit his family.

KKF PRESS RELEASE: Pregnant Khmer-Krom Woman Imprisoned and Husband under House Arrest

Office of the President No: 313 /KKF/S/2010 08 March 2010 Pennsauken, NJ, USA To Whom It May Concern: On behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, we would like to bring to your immediate attention Vietnam’s injustice against a Khmer-Krom couple for harvesting rice on their ancestral lands. Background In 1979, many Khmer-Krom people in Moth Chrouk (renamed An Giang) province were forced to leave their homes, lands and relocated to Khleang (renamed Soc Trang) and Pol Leav (renamed Bac Lieu) province. When they were allowed to return back, most of their lands were inhabited by Vietnamese people. Mr. Chau Ra Quon, like many thousands of Khmer-Krom people tried to file for the return of their confiscated farmlands but received no response from the Vietnamese government. Taking matters into their own hands, Mr. Chau Ra Quon and his wife, Mrs. Neang Chanh Thon decided to plant rice crops last season on their ancestral farmlands. On 17 February 2009, Mr. Chau and Mrs. Neang went to harvest their crops but were met with local Vietnamese police to stop them from harvest their crops. Mrs. Neang, three months pregnant was arrested and remains in prison today. She has a 7 month old baby at home, whom she was breastfeeding. Mrs. Neang has not been allowed visitors and has not seen her husband or baby since her arrest. Her family fears for her safety and that of her unborn child. On 26 February 2010, Mr. Chau Ra Quon, aged 29, Village of An Cu, District of Tinh Bien, Province of An Giang was ordered to face the Vietnamese authorities for allegedly acting “against the law enforcers” violating the Vietnamese Government Article 257 felony. Mr. Chau has been actively in asking for the return of his lands by participating in peaceful demonstrations. Instead of resolving the land confiscation issues, Vietnam authorities are targeting and imprisoning Khmer-Krom individuals for daring to protest against the Vietnamese government. Mr. Chau Ra Quon is currently placed under house arrest and remains heavily monitored. He faces prison if he is found guilty on these charges. In this regards, we would like to ask for your assistance to:
  • Ask Vietnamese government to release Mrs. Neang Chanh Thon immediately so that she can get medical aid for her unborn baby and be allowed to look after her young baby.
  • Help to investigate and monitor the situation of Mr. Chau Ra Quon, who is facing prison for simply exercising his basic right to peacefully demand for the return of his confiscated lands.
  • Urge Vietnamese government to release Mr. Chau Ra Quon from house arrest and all charges against him.
  • Ask Vietnamese government to focus on effective means to resolving land confiscation issues rather than cracking down on Khmer-Krom land activists, who are merely exercising their basic rights.
While the world is celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March, Mrs. Neang is unfairly detained and alone in prison, separated from her family and friends. We fear for her safety and we look forward to hearing from you.

CERD Considers Inconsistencies in Cambodia’s Treatment of Khmer Krom

Posted by UNPO Last week (15th-19th February), a delegation from the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) participated in Cambodia’s review under the 76th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in the Palais de Wilson, Geneva. Delegates from UNPO and the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), utilized the opportunity of a lunchtime NGO briefing session with experts on the Committee, as well as a meeting with Special Rapporteur Mr Pierre-Richard Prosper to draw attention to the unique situation of Khmer Krom in Cambodia who have fled persecution in Vietnam. Mr Thach Thach, President of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation introduced the issue in his address at the briefing on 18th February, suggesting that obtaining documentation from Cambodia is when problems become apparent. He explained that whilst the Cambodian government has been clear in stating that Khmer Krom from Vietnam are entitled to Cambodian citizenship, there is a contradiction in reality leaving Khmer Krom living in legal limbo as they are neither treated as citizens nor as refugees. This affects their ability to access basic human rights since without identity papers, Khmer Krom find themselves discriminated against and unable to find regular employment, register births and marriages or own property. Mr Thach provided photographic evidence to show that in order to receive ID cards, Khmer Krom have to change their identity so that their documents no longer state they are from Kampuchea-Krom and officially they no longer have a Khmer Krom name. This specific situation was posed to Cambodia in the Special Rapporteur’s early questions to which Cambodia replied that ‘In principle, Khmer Kampuchea Krom are recognised as Cambodian citizens without any discrimination.’ In his address at Cambodia’s review on 18th February, Mr Prosper described the Khmer Krom’s situation as both a ‘fascinating’ and ‘complex’ issue, stressing that implementation of the law, which views all Khmer Krom as Cambodian nationals, requires a procedure that renders the law ineffective. He highlighted inconsistency in policy which requests Khmer Krom from Vietnam to present a Khmer birth certificate and permanent address in Cambodia. Mr Prosper recommended that action should be taken to ‘resolve the problem of citizenship once and for all.’ This procedural issue was re-iterated throughout the interactive dialogue by other experts including Mr Thornbury and Mr De Gouttes. The debate was contextualized when Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay posed a question about Venerable Tim Sakhorn, a Khmer Krom monk who had been residing in Cambodia since 1979. He asked Cambodia to explain why despite possessing a Cambodian ID card, Tim Sakhorn was expelled to Vietnam on 30 June 2007. Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva His Excellency Mr. Sun Suon led the Cambodian delegation and explained that he understood there were difficulties regarding the residency requirements to obtain identification cards and agreed to encourage discussion in the Cambodian government on this issue. Cambodia needs to guarantee a fair and transparent process of administering identity documentation to ensure consistency and equality in the treatment of Khmer Krom. Guarantees need to be put in place for Khmer Krom to ensure there is no confusion about who holds the mandate of responsibility for their protection and they should not be forced to change their identity. UNPO anticipates the concluding remarks with assurances from the Special Rapporteur that recommendations regarding the difficulties faced by Khmer Krom in Cambodia will be made. For a copy of this Press Release click here For the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation Lunchtime NGO Briefing Paper click here For evidence of changes made to identity documentation click here For OHCHR Notes on the CERD session click here For information on 22 Khmer Krom who were recently refused ID in Cambodia click here

The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sereivuth Prak P.O.Box 193 Pennsauken, NJ 08110 Phone: 562-209-1790 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Pennsauken, NJ - January 19, 2010 - Prior to April 1975, people around the world knew about the Vietnam War. Today, people know about the fertile land of the Mekong Delta that helps Vietnam to be ranked as the second leading exporter of rice in the world. However, there are very few people who know the true history of the Mekong Delta and its surrounding regions. Therefore, people don’t know about the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples. The Khmer-Krom are the indigenous peoples of Kampuchea-Krom. Kampuchea-Krom means “Cambodia Below” or “South Cambodia”. Kampuchea-Krom was the southernmost territory of the Khmer Empire. The territory was renamed Cochinchina during the French colonization of Indochina. After the French government illegally transferred its colony, Cochinchina, to Vietnam on June 4, 1949, without the plebiscite or the consent of the Khmer-Krom, Cochinchina (Kampuchea-Krom) became lower half of the Republic of South Vietnam. Since April 30, 1975, Kampuchea-Krom has been known as the Southern part of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Living under the control of the Vietnamese government, the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples have suffered tremendous human rights violations, confiscation of ancestral lands, and economic and social deprivations. The Indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples are not allowed to learn their own language and history in public schools or to freely practice their Theravada Buddhism without the interference of the Vietnamese government. As an effort to bring awareness of the voiceless Khmer-Krom in Kampuchea-Krom to the world, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) is proud to present this book about the Khmer-Krom, entitled "The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination". This is the first time this subject has been presented in this level of detail in the English language. This book contains material produced by the KKF reflecting the true accounts of the Khmer-Krom regarding their history, culture, religion, and land. This information was produce by the combined efforts of KKF contributors, living in Kampuchea-Krom and from countries around the world. This book also consists of a collection of articles and essays about the Khmer-Krom that are written by academics and Human Rights advocates. In his review of this book, Madev Mohan, the International Law representing Khmer-Krom Survivors at Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Tribunal) wrote, “this book should be read by all activists, scholars, jurists and policy makers in the fields of international development and humanitarianism with a view to identifying fresh measures to preserve the Khmer Krom social memory and culture, protect the human rights of the Khmer Krom people and, importantly, tell the Khmer Krom story.”

The Nonviolent Movement toward Khmer-Krom Self-Determination is an Affirmative Hope

At the year-end meeting of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) from 12-13 December 2009 in San Jose, California, Mr. To Kim Thong, KKF Chairman, had an interview with the Preynokor News regarding to the roadmap that the KKF has been advocating to seek for the right to self-determination for the indigenous Khmer-Krom people as follows: Son Socheat: What are the main reasons of the KKF’s annual year-end meeting? To Kim Thong: The KKF has its members all over the world. It is necessary to have a year-end meeting to discuss about the activities that KKF had done for a year. The year-end meeting provides the opportunity for the KKF leaders around the world to share ideas and experiences. It is also a chance for KKF leaders to re-evaluate its objectives and plans to execute them more effectively in the coming years. Son Socheat: Do you think that the Khmer-Krom could achieve the right to self-determination or not? And why so? To Kim Thong: This is a good question and I believe that there are many other people asking the same. My answer to the first part of your question is simply: Yes. As to the question why, it takes a little more time for reasoning. First of all, we should know what self-determination means. This phrase has become a topic inspiring the writers to write poems and motivating the nationalists to sacrifice their lives in exchange for the rights of their people. Originally, the word self-determination had been initiated by American President Woodrow Wilson and Soviet Union leader Vladimir llyich Lenin and others in Versailles after World War I. Mr. Ho Chi Minh used the principle of this theory to demand the independence from French colonizer. East Timor and Kosovo that recently gained independence also followed the principle of the self-determination. On Thursday, September 13, 2007, the General Assembly, by a majority of 144 states including Vietnam, adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The third article of this declaration clearly states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” The possible result of an exercise of self-determination would be in three different options: 1/ Indigenous peoples live peacefully under the governing of the colonial authorities, but the colonial authorities have to respect the human rights, justice and dignity of the indigenous peoples. The model of this form is similar status of the Native American in the United States. 2/ Indigenous peoples have their own autonomy government, but it is under the umbrella of the Federation or Union states. The model of this form is similar to the status of Nunavut in Northern Canada. 3/ Indigenous peoples have their own independent country. The model of this form is similar to the situation of Kosovo in Yugoslavia and East Timor in Indonesia. The KKF’s vision on self-determination is to focus on the sovereignty. To simply put, Khmer-Krom must have freedom to build their own society on their territory without being forced, ordered, or pressured from Vietnam. The history has clearly proved that the Khmer-Krom is the owner of this land for thousand years. It was not as the Vietnamese wants us to believe that the land was theirs since their ancestors started encroaching and gradually controlling the wilderness in the 17th century. As rightful owner of our home, we must have the rights to maintain or arrange things around our home the way we wish. As for how to do that, it depends on situations. We strongly believe that our peaceful movement will succeed because the truths are on our side. These truths are: (a) the tradition of relentless struggle of the Khmer-Krom people, (b) our entitlement to the land of the Kampuchea-Krom,(c) the advocacy of the International Laws and Conventions, especially the UNDRIP, and (d) it is the best interest of the Vietnamese people to have a peaceful, developed, mutual respect, and true friendship with the Khmer-Krom people. Son Socheat: What are the achievements of the KKF’s nonviolent movement for the Khmer- Krom who currently live in our homeland and abroad? To Kim Thong: The KKF’s nonviolent movement has gained many benefits for the Khmer- Krom people who live in our homeland and overseas, such as: 1/ We have reminded the Vietnamese government that regardless what tactics it has used to eliminate our Khmer race from our ancestral land, the Khmer-Krom who is the children of the Angkor builders, will never stop fighting to keep our identity alive. Therefore, the Vietnamese government has to soften its ethnic policies toward Khmer-Krom. 2/ We have brought awareness to the international community about who the Khmer-Krom is, and we have gained the support from many foreigners. Now, the Vietnamese government cannot arrest or imprison Khmer-Krom without a legitimate reason or to arbitrarily kill them as they did in the past. We have the international community to help defending our people all the time. 3/ We have successfully made the Vietnamese government to face the truth and forced it to reluctantly pay attention to the well-being of the Khmer-Krom people; for example building houses and giving some money to the poor. Looking back, we would clearly see the good outcomes for what we have done. The Vietnamese government hoped that their plan for eliminating the Khmer-Krom race would be completed by 1975. They hoped that Khmer-Krom identity would become “Dong Bao Dan Toc” and Angkor Watt temple to become “De Thien De Thich”. What the Vietnamese government could not imagine was that the falling of international communist regimes and the formidable resistances of Khmer-Krom people to keep their identity that make Hanoi government fail to implement its ethnic cleansing policy. Son Socheat: Does KKF have any support from other governments, countries or international organizations? To Kim Thong: The UN DRIP and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are indications that the demanding of the right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples has enough legitimate support from the signatory countries. Last year, the declaration of European parliamentary and the reports of Human Right Watch condemned the Vietnamese government committed human right violations against Khmer-Krom. KKF has also made close relationship with the donors and investment countries in Vietnam. Moreover, KKF also has the international law experts, the historians, the researchers, and the volunteers as the consultants and the advisors. Many people from Italy, England, Singapore and the United States of America, etc have collaborated with us to publish a book for more than 300 pages that confirm the sovereignty of the Khmer-Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom. Son Socheat: What are the plans of the KKF in 2010? To Kim Thong: The plans for 2010 focus on the visions called “Long March forward to the Motherland”. It outlines the things we would do on the international stage, in Cambodia, and in Kampuchea-Krom. Son Socheat: On behalf of the Preynokor News, I would like to thank for your valuable time to have an interview with us today and clearly explain the KKF’s vision regarding the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples in Kampuchea-Krom.
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