President Meets Top Officials in Taiwan

According to Radio Free Asia, KKF President Thach Ngoc Thach is amongst the distinguished representative of the sixty three members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization participating in today’s opening session. In the heart of Taiwan, the Eighth General Assembly of the UNPO has attracted a diverse range of representatives from across the globe. Amongst the panelist are members of the British House of Lords, the European Parliament and Estonia. Like the Khmer-Krom people and the other sixty two members of the UNPO, the Taiwanese people are also unrepresented in the international community. This conference provided a unique opportunity for indigenous peoples such as the Khmer-Krom and Taiwanese to build a closer relationship so that they may work together to be recognized internationally.

Mr. Thach and Mr. Giap meets Jeffrey Wang, Minister of Foreign Affairs
For the members of the KKF, their recent success at The Hague, Netherlands was highlighted and praised during the opening session. Indeed KKF’s dedicated and persistent work to bring international attention to Khmer-Krom issues, in particular the conference entitled, Self-Determination in International Law continues to receive awards of recognition and respect everywhere they go. Listen to RFA Interview on 27th October 2006

KKF President on Situation of Miss. Touch Sreynit

In an interview with RFA on 21st October 2006, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach talks about Miss. Touch Sreynit, a famous and well respected singer in Cambodia. Unlike most singers, Miss Touch was the first famous face to sing Khmer-Krom songs on behalf of the KKF. While her reason behind her shooting remains controversial, Mr. Thach has encouraged all singers to continue sing songs about the love of their nation and identity. Click here to listen

Unity: Light in the Tunnel of Nightmares

Ending the Khmer-Krom’s nightmare of Oppression and Fear of Yuon Vietnam government has a wealth of strategies in placed to eliminate Khmer-Krom from their beloved land without physically bleeding them. History has taught us again and again that we, Khmer-Krom, have to stop this oppressive nightmare and the fear of Yuon. Our struggle is to do what is right for what is true. There are more than 300 million indigenous peoples around the globe who are actively fighting for freedom and human rights. Thus, we encourage all who live under the oppression and have do nothing to oppose it are living a lie – the lie that life is normal. The stark reality is that all people have the choice to start telling the truth to themselves and the world. We have to act on this truth and start resisting the lies and the rule of colonization. We have challenge ourselves many years on objectives, goals and vision and have debated the differences. Can we all do better? We have to live in the truth and open up power to change Kampuchea-Krom. To do so, KKF has the vision “Road Map to Motherland” by explaining the truth about the oppression to our beloved Khmer-Krom so they can begin to understand and appreciate KKF’s purpose. I believe that the Vietnamese oppression of the indigenous Khmer Krom people will not last forever. As Lincoln once said, “Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, will liberate the world.” Indeed the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation was formed for the very same reason, to prepare and lead the way to a greater destiny. Freedom to choose directions – A Khmer-Krom Self-determination and its future destiny. We are the voice of Khmer-Krom, more than 8 million of us. KKF is a young struggle movement and it is nice to say nice things about. We must show the will, the initiative, and the moral energy necessary to keep our major interests in the forefront and so contribute to the changes that are taking place. Hope and faith must to be placed in our hearts. Our sucess in world affairs will be measured by the suitability of our objectives, our internal strength and unity of purpose. Can we find this unity of purpose? This is the “proper environment” of which after hundred years of successive colonized history, hardship and oppression. Before, we have unstable vision because of many reasons. We must determine what is best for all Khmer-Krom at this particular point in time before we can declare a Khmer-Krom position on national and international questions. Happily, unity and a sense of nationhood are achieved by the remembrance of things past as well as by planning for tomorrow. There is much in our past that is still living and must be preserved, but there is also much that has no present value except that of sentiment. Khmer-Krom are not defeated peoples living in this world today, and no one can say or denial our claim of self-determination. We all know that the processes of the change sweeping through the world have within the past generations destroyed empires, transformed utterly the political and social institutions of continents and no appeal to traditional ways can restore their former utility. In a rapid and changing world, the strength and unity of Kampuchea-Krom will stem from a strong determination and concentration on the possibilities that lie before the Khmer-Krom people. Historically, no one can divide us; we have and will retain our hopes, our dreams if we concentrate on what we can do tomorrow. We need a vibrant and living struggle movement. We, KKF, need to define our aims and objectives so that the meaning and the significance of the global change that are taking place in our hopes and dreams will be clearly understood and accepted by all Khmer-Krom. We need to develop a deeper understanding and greater and clearer comprehension of ourselves and our identity so that we may more correctly and effectively assess and evaluate our position among the nations of the world. We need a Kampuchea-Krom image for the sake our people and the international community so that neither the one nor the other would have reason to misjudge our probable responses to our objectives, goals and vision. We must have our own character and style to determine our very own future. Indigenous cultures of peoples such as the Khmer-Krom has been developed over the centuries will not disappear or be eliminated that easily. In fact, our Khmer-Krom people are reasserting itself at a particularly fortunate moment in history. The successful completion of the first international conference on Khmer-Krom issues at The Hague, Netherlands has paved the way for the creation of tomorrow that spells UNITY” and Self-determination for the Khmer-Krom people. Thach N Thach

RFA: Hundreds Greet KKF in Philadelphia

According to a report by RFA, hundreds of Khmer-Krom and Khmer people from across the United States of America have flocked to Philadelphia to listen to KKF delegates speak about their recent experience and success at The Hague. Participants have expressed their joy and clarity in understanding KKF’s accomplishments and visions to advocate for human rights on behalf of millions of oppressed Khmer-Krom people back in Kampuchea-Krom. Listen to RFA report in Khmer

KKF Campaign Continues in Paris

Returning to France for the first time in a long time, over fifteen KKF representatives have continued their campaign to Paris just days after their successful three day conference in The Hague, Netherlands. France as a country has generated mix feelings for many Khmer-Krom people abroad and in Mekong Delta. Colonising Kampuchea-Krom for over one hundred years, France had exclusive access and control of the rich fertile rice fields of Mekong Delta region. Instead of uniting Kampuchea-Krom (French renamed to Cochin China) with its motherland, Cambodia, France illegally handed over Kampuchea-Krom to Vietnam without prior or informed consent of the Khmer-Krom people in 1949. Since then, the Khmer-Krom people have lived in great fear and discrimination under a Communist government that refuses to recognise that they are the indigenous owners of the Mekong Delta. Interestingly enough for members of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), France as a country also holds a special place in their hearts. In fact, the very seeds of the federation were planted in France over twenty years ago. Lead by local resident and dedicated KKF representative in Europe, Mr. Thach Vien, a conference was held on Sunday 8th of October to enlighten the Khmer and Khmer-Krom communities about KKF’s mission to advocate for human rights for the millions of indigenous Khmer-Krom people of the Mekong Delta. Over sixty participants across France flocked to the conference, some families travelling over five hours to learn and support KKF. Former members of the KKF were united with the current delegations, providing a rare moment of happiness and reunion. Amongst the distinguished guests present was the honourable Mayor of Villepinte, members of the Cambodian Royal family and the President of the Khmer-Krom community in France. “I feel hope for Khmer-Krom and the Khmer civilisation as a whole,” were the words of one royal princess who was amazed by the organisation’s visions and accomplishments. Indeed many of the participants were brought to tears when enlighten about Khmer-Krom’s untold suffering and the light that KKF brings to dark oppressive world that the Khmer-Krom people face in Kampuchea-Krom.

Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach, KKF president reinforced the need for a strong sense of unity and purpose while Mr. Prak Sereivuth, Vice President spoke about the history of Khmer-Krom and the political aspiration of various countries including France, Cambodia and Vietnam to control Kampuchea-Krom. Another history in the making, the conference in France has generated more friendships and a great sense of understanding and unity amongst the Khmer and Khmer-Krom community. KKF would like to express their sincere thanks to Mr. Vien Thach and his family and the numerous Khmer-Krom members who have kindly dedicated their time, efforts and finances to make the conference successful. Special thanks also to many dedicated individuals who have kindly toured and hosted KKF in Paris.

KKF’s Quest for Self-Determination

An idea taking rooting only 13 months ago, the conference on Self Determination in International Law has exceeded the expectations of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) delegations. Months prior to the conference, local community Khmer-Krom leaders and youths have been actively organizing events to help fundraise for much need funds. For Mr. Chau Siep, KKF President in the Chapter of Victoria, Australia did his part. He embarked on a mission to educate the Khmer and Khmer-Krom community about Khmer Krom’s suffering and the new hope that KKF brings to the millions of indigenous peoples of Vietnam. His efforts and the generosity of the community fundraised approximately $10,000AUS to help KKF fulfill its missions. An exceptionally man, he is just one of many dedicated Khmer-Krom individuals making justice possible for the Khmer-Krom people living in Kampuchea Krom. Also referred as a symposium, the three-day conference was organized into five sessions followed by a question and answer period to allow participants to engage in an active dialogue and debate with the panel of experts. The opening session was officially opened by Joshua Cooper, Director of the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights who extended a special welcome to all guest speakers as well as Khmer-Krom and Khmer delegates traveling from all corners of the earth to attend this historic conference. Chaired by Mr. Goran Hansson, UNPO Chairman, the opening session was addressed by two honored and distinguish guest speakers. Firstly, the participants were enlightened about the International Court of Justice, its legacy of peace and justice. Spoken by Judge Abdul G. Koroma, he gave a brief insight into the role of the International Court of Justice in dealing with conflict resolutions between States. Professor Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples was the second honored speaker; he spoke about his position and the concept of self-determination. An exceptional gifted speaker, he explained to the participants the meaning of self-determination, decolonization, its history and the various grounds in which indigenous peoples such as the Khmer-Krom people could pursue. Distinguished experts in the field of indigenous peoples and international law addressed the first session. Speakers include Mr. Aqqaluk Lynge (President, Inuit Circumpolar Council and Member of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), Mr. Niccolo Figa-Talamanca (Executive Director, No Peace without Justice), Ms. Franci Taylor (Lecturer from Leiden University) and Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach (KKF President), who spoke about the Khmer-Krom history. A reception was then hosted in The Hague city hall in which all participants of the conference were invited. It provided a unique opportunity for the Khmer-Krom people as well as other participants to meet the international recognized experts and develop a working relationship. Amongst the speakers was an elder indigenous women who gave a blessing in her language for the participants of conference for it brought together amazing people who cared for one another. Likewise, KKF Chairman Mr. To Kim Thong empathized the need for mutal respect, justice, peace and harmony between peoples. The second day of the conference proved to be a stimulating event. Chaired by Mr. Marco Perduca, the topic of the Right of Self Determination in International Human Rights Law Machinery was addressed by Dr. Catherine Brolmann (Professor of the University of Amsterdam and Ms. Anna Batalla (Consultant in the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights). The second part of the morning session was addressed by a diverse range of speakers including Mr. Cecilia Nilsson Kleffner (Legal Advisor and Head of the Hague office of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Mr. Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, Professor Dr. G.G. J. Knoops (University of Utrecht) and Ms. Alison Smith (Program Director of No Peace Without Justice). After lunch, the third session was chaired by Mr. Joshua Cooper entitled Models of Self-Determination. The session was designed to provide a unique opportunity for practitioners of leading models of Self-Determination to share their knowledge and experiences from an indigenous perspective. The speakers included Mr. Johan Mikkel Sara (Vice President of the Sami Parliament) and Mr. Aqqaluk Lygne. Mr. Jake Swamp, Chief of the Mohawk Nation in Canada was the final speaker for the third session. Speaking directly from his heart, his words captivated the attention of all the participants and brought tears to the many present. He spoke about the painfully suffering of indigenous peoples including his people and their determination to survive against all odds. In particular, he spoke about the concept of a large tree, of the greater indigenous family in which the Khmer-Krom is a member. He spoke of hope and the need for the next generation to help their elders relieve the burden of the tree, which has fallen down with the onset of greater colonizing powers. His words touched a chord within the Khmer-Krom hearts for the concept of the tree was similar to the well-known tree planted by Governor Son Kuy in Preah Trapeang during the 1600s. The tree was planted with its roots up, a concept unheard of and yet the tree continues to flourish today and represents the Khmer-Krom culture and identity. It is believed that as long as the tree keeps growing, the Khmer-Krom identity will continue to live forever in their beloved ancestral lands. The topic entitled, UN Decolonization Committee; A Process of Steps Towards Self-Determination is yet another course in which indigenous peoples could chose to pursue. The impressive line up of speakers included Mr. Marco Perduca, Mr. Pedro Pinto Leite (Secretary General, International Platform of Jurist for East Timor) and Dr. Educardo Welsh (Editor and former UNPO Programme Director). In his concluding speech for the day, Mr. Joshua Cooper spoke about the KKF’s relentless pursue of human rights for their beloved people in Kampuchea Krom. He spoke about how the KKF has stepped up their campaign in the international spotlight and their amazing achievements in the past five years including this conference. Echoing Mr. Cooper’s words earlier was Mr. Marco Perduca, who praised members of the federation, stating that they were the fast growing non-governmental organization in the world. Saturday 30th of September ended with a special procession and candle light vigil from The Hague City Hall to the Peace Palace. Local traffic came to a stand still as Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks, guests and participants carried candles towards the Peace Palace with the Khmer-Krom and UNPO flags flying proud. Yet another historic event, the candles were lit to commemorate and raise awareness of those who were prevented from joining the march. Upon arrival of the gates of the Peace Palace, a young group of men from Cameroon sang a special song called, “When shall I see my home again?” It struck a chord for the many Khmer-Krom present for they are also waiting for the time in which they could return home to Kampuchea-Krom and once again be united with their families and friends. A prayer for peace was then chanted by the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks embedding the sense of purpose and the need for urgent actions to be done for the millions of voiceless Khmer-Krom people in the Mekong Delta. The final day of the conference proved to be as inspirational as the other two days. Chaired by KKF’s Chairman Mr. To Kim Thong, a premiere screening “Eliminated without Bleeding” was showcased. A Khmer-Krom film by director Rebecca Sommer displayed the stark reality that the Khmer-Krom people face and their silent and often deadly oppression by Vietnamese authorities. Furthermore, a declaration on Self Determination in International Law was adopted by participants at the Symposium at 12.40pm, 1st October 2006. The declaration marked an important development for the Khmer-Krom people and indigenous peoples and organizations worldwide to fully realize their self determination. In the closing remarks, Mr. Marino Busdachin and Mr. To Kim Thong expressed their appreciation and thanks to the many guests and participants who made a big effort in attending the conference. They also thanked the work of the young KKF and UNPO teams for the smooth operation and organization of the conference. Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach, KKF President also took the opportunity to speak to the many Khmer-Krom and Khmer people present. He spoke of the need of the people to remain strong and unite as one under the umbrella of the KKF. The successful completion of this international conference is yet another phenomenal achievement of the KKF to advocate for the rights of their indigenous peoples. Despite the long road ahead, KKF continues to take slow but steady steps towards achieving Self-Determination. Members of the KKF advanced to France to continue their campaign to educate and enlighten the Khmer and Khmer-Krom community about their past, current and future activities in the hope of embedding the sense of purpose, identity and unity as a greater Khmer-Krom family.

“When Having a Problem You Cannot Solve – Enlarge the Context” – UNPO GS Speech

Symposium: “The Right to Self-determination in International Law”, 29 September – 1 October 2006, The Hague Opening Session: Speech by Marino Busdachin, UNPO General Secretary The subject of this conference seems to be especially important for the international community. It is fulfilling a major gap in the last years on analysing and debating the major question of the right to self-determination and its place in the context of the wider purposes of International Law. Major conferences and studies in the 1990s found undoubtedly that the right to self-determination is conferred on peoples by international law itself and not by states. And, following, that its exercise must be given content in an International Law system of guarantees. Nevertheless this argument is poorly considered in practice and the principles not implemented. Territorial integrity and self-determination, two major principles enshrined in the UN Charter and as in documents such as the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, are still and constantly in conflict. In the post-9/11 environment, the situation has deteriorated. Of the over 60 armed conflicts within states active around the world a large part of them have, directly or indirectly, the issue of the denial of the right to self-determination as a key to the divergence. Too many peoples and communities are denied basic cultural, civil and political rights. Cultural repression, the denial of the rights of peoples, political oppression and marginalization, and lack of democracy are causes of major insecurity. Too frequently the right to self-determination is viewed naively as a rigid choice between all or nothing, between recognising an independent state or total denial of a cultural and political identity. Our work should be addressed to the broadest grey zone between the two extremes. Jean Monnet, the driving force behind the creation of the European Union never ceased to remark that “when you have a problem you cannot solve, enlarge the context.” This is exactly what happened in the process of rebuilding Europe after the World War II, more than fifty years ago. In the present world and in the current international context, deeply and heavily marked by interdependency between states or association of states, the right to self-determination, as with the principle of sovereignty and border sanctity, needs to be put under discussion, reconsidered and differently evaluated. The world’s nearly 200 countries contain some 5,000 ethnic groups. Two thirds have substantial minorities and indigenous peoples; ethnic and religious groups; as well as occupied countries or oppressed peoples. Often at least 10% of the population of countries consist of these groups and oppressed peoples. In a global world, territorial intrastate conflicts increasingly challenge international peace, security, and the promotion of democracy. It deprives millions of peoples of their basic human rights. In this new world the principle of, and the right to, self-determination acquires a new dimension within the interactive corpus of democracy, development and peace. The Human rights exegesis has to adapt to these contemporary challenges, e.g. by considering an adjusted approach to the concept of self-determination in a broader sense, i.e. as an “ongoing process of choice in order to achieve, in different specific situations, guarantees of cultural security, form of self-governance and autonomy, economic self-reliance, effective participation at the international level, lands rights and the ability to care for the natural environment, spiritual freedom and the various forms that ensure the free expression and protection of collective identity in dignity as a fundamental people’s rights.” (1) It is an absolute necessity to reaffirm that it is not the right to self-determination that ignites and fuels conflicts, but on the contrary, that it is the very denial of this right, which is firmly enshrined in international law and human rights law, which increases the global turmoil and the general disastrous mess. For over 20 years the UN system has produced a serious study and reliable debate on self-determination. It has become evident that the work is conceptually inadequate to address these new forms of self-determination. We need to act, in order to produce a reformulation or broadening of the idea that the process of self-determination would and could contribute to conflict prevention and resolution. If not the right to self- determination will remain just a trap. As it has been for too many years and in too many dire situations. In this way, the officially adopted Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples, and I underline that it has never become an universally accepted document, should start a process and should become an important segment of an international system of guarantees of international law. This happened with the establishment of the International Criminal Court, which is working on crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes operating on the key on the principle of complementarity and having international jurisdiction. It was established after the UN Diplomatic Conference in Rome in 1998 and is ratified today by over 100 countries around the world as an International Treaty. According to UN figures, there are more than 300 million indigenous people in the world, disseminated among some 6.000 indigenous communities. They are generally discriminated against and treated as second-class citizens, live in the poorest conditions, outcast from decent education, devoid of political rights on matters that affects them. In more appropriate terms, they are simply denied to be themselves. The quest for justice and equal rights is growing, and growing yet again. There has been some progress in international standard-setting and monitoring of respect for minority and indigenous rights, but substantially, much work remains to be done. The equal guarantee to enjoy all human rights represents a key element in international human rights law, but still details and specifics of substance are missing or clearly insufficient. And this is as true for individual rights as group rights. An urgent call for the establishment of judicial procedures for matching the standards is needed. At present time, many peoples live under alien domination or domestic oppression. Stateless nations, ethnic groups split between different States and a very long list of violent ethnic conflicts ravages the world and crowd international agendas. Atrocities and abuses by States or majorities against indigenous peoples and minorities have become a banality, ordinary news on the media. Self-determination must be seen and exercised in a manner consistent with other principles of International Law and with the perspective of balancing different interests, and finalizing disputes in a peaceful settlement and with major respect for the human rights of others. Is this a compromise? Maybe! But I would like to welcome to any compromise that will allow the right of self-determination to be sorted out of the quagmire in which it has been kept for so long. Intergovernmental Organizations, the United Nations must seriously consider to open the door to the voiceless, the oppressed, the less fortunate. UN bodies such the Trusteeship Council or Fourth Committee could be granted new roles in order to address the appeals by indigenous peoples and minorities. Why not a seat with observer status at the UN General Assembly? Grievances of indigenous peoples must be voiced and listened to in the major International Fora, – and the question of self-determination be enlisted in the International Agenda. The changes arising from the process of globalization and interdependence could make it possible, for the first time after centuries. The disappearance of the absolute division between international politics and national politics could lead the indigenous peoples and minorities to become part in the State’s foreign policies. This is our challenge. Today, it will be a challenge for modern States tomorrow. Without prejudice and with an open mind, a compromise can be reached. Time may not be important. What is important, – is the direction taken. Even an inch per day, but in the right direction. Symposium organised by: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights Reference: (1) Conclusion, Conference on “The Implementation of the right to Self-Determination as a Contribution to Conflict Prevention”, Barcelona, Nov. 1998