RFA on 29th January 2007 Radio Free Asia in the Khmer program has interviewed KKF President, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach during their latest annual meeting in Orlando, State of Florida in the United States of America from Saturday 26th to 27th January 2007. Over twenty distinguished KKF representatives from all corners of the world have met for the first time this year to review their accomplishments in 2006 and plan for KKF’s agenda in 2007. In his interview to RFA, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach has highlighted the important role of informing the Khmer-Krom people of their rights as indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta region of South Vietnam. In particular the increasing number of non violent protest is a reflection of the increasing knowledge of their basic fundamental freedom and rights as declared by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. He spoke of the increasing support and respect from the international community as well as gaining recognition world wide for their struggle for self-determination on behalf of millions of their peoples in the Mekong Delta. Click here to listen to RFA full report (24 mins into program)
The Khmer women are pleased that Vietnam has completed its obligation under CEDAW to write the report and meet with CEDAW. We hope that this spirit of cooperation continues with the Khmer people, the other main ingredient in international protection and promotion of human rights, the citizens of the respected country reporting. The Khmer people were not consulted in the drafting of this report. We seek a role in the implementation of the recommendations issued by the committee. These are real people with real problems and unless something is done immediately, the fate of these indigenous peoples will be mortally challenged.
The term Education should not limited to the Vietnamese language rather; it should include the languages of the indigenous peoples as well. In most instances, the Vietnamese government has prohibited school and temples from teaching the Khmer language, culture, history and tradition. While such acts may ensure the successful integration of the indigenous peoples and other minorities into the Vietnamese mainstream society, it erodes and violates the rights of indigenous peoples to preserve their unique identity and culture. In the heavily Khmer populated areas of Preah Trapeang [renamed Tra Vinh], only 10% of the Khmer-Krom people have a high school or higher education qualification. Over 70% of the Khmer-Krom women and men have no schooling. These figures are similar in all other provinces such as Khleang [Soc Trang], An Giang and Pol Leav [Bac Lieu]. This is a clear violation of this article. This lack of educational support and structure has meant that Khmer-Krom women are limited to becoming only farmers and peasants. No encouragement or initiatives exist to help young Khmer-Krom women obtain higher education or improve employment. Those who finish high school are faced with a lack of job opportunities and are often limited to working as farmers or teachers. Others have been forced to work in under paid jobs, working as servants to wealthy Vietnamese people, while thousands of Khmer-Krom girls have been falsely lured into trafficking. The State of Viet Nam must implement programs and initiatives to encourage the further development of the indigenous women by offering more scholarships for higher education abroad as well as opening English study centers to maximize their employment opportunities at the local, national and international level. Khmer youth and women must be provided equal access to education.
7.1 Ensuring women’s rights to vote and stand for elections Many indigenous women such as the Khmer-Krom women are certainly not aware of their very rights to vote and stand for elections. They see voting as a duty rather than a right. The Khmer-Krom women rarely stand for elections due to the unwelcoming environment and the unfamiliar territory. They go to vote, most of time, for the Vietnamese candidates, which they hardly know about the candidates’ background. The Khmer-Krom women, as well as the majority of the Khmer-Krom community, lack the overall understanding of Viet Nam’s electoral system at all levels of governments. Their beliefs are that the only people who can run for elections are the Vietnamese. Khmer women don’t know about the right to vote, let alone be a candidate to provide leadership in their community. Facing the social stigma and limited awareness of the importance of women’s participation in the political life and community activities, most indigenous women stay away from the whole electoral process.
While Viet Nam appears to appreciate the underlying difficulty in promoting women’s rights, it needs to further define discrimination of women to include but not limit to the discrimination concerning minorities and indigenous women. Of primary concern is the situation of the Khmer-Krom women, who are currently facing double discrimination. First, they are discriminated because they are women and secondly because they are Khmer-Krom. Some examples include: • Miss. Dao Hai Ngan, aged 15 was raped by a Vietnamese authoritiy in Can Tho and despite appeals by UNPO and KKF, no acknowlegement or action have been initated by the Vietnamese authorities.
Kampuchea Krom is the Khmer name for the Mekong Delta region of the current state of Viet Nam. Kampuchea Krom measures up to 68,000 square kilometers and is the traditional homeland of Khmer Krom. The indigenous peoples of Kampuchea Krom are the Khmer Krom, the ancient descendents of the people of Nokor Phnom (or Funan in the corrupted Chinese translation) empire.
Exploring the Roots of Discrimination Against Khmer Women in Kampuchea Krom (Vietnam) And Recognizing the Rights of CEDAW Now
Determining the Policies & Practices for the Elimination of Double Discrimination And Forging a Future of Fundamental Freedoms
A Shadow Report Shining the Light of Freedom in Kampuchea Krom
Researched and Written by the Women’s Commission of the Khmer Krom Federation (KKF)
The following are reports and documents submitted by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation. If you would like more information regarding this documents, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In light of the first week of the 37th Session on the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Women’s Commission of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation has revealed encouraging outcomes from the conference. Led by Mrs. Son Thi Nit, the Women’s Commission of KKF has submitted a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee entitled, “Exploring the Roots of Discrimination against Khmer Women in Kampuchea Krom (Vietnam) and recognizing the Rights of CEDAW Now.” The first of its kind for the Khmer-Krom women and CEDAW, the shadow report was extensively researched and compiled by members of the WCKKF in effort to enlighten the CEDAW Committee of the gross human rights violation inflicted by the Vietnamese authorities against the indigenous Khmer-Krom women of the Mekong Delta. For example, Miss. Dao Hai Ngan, aged 15 was raped by a Vietnamese authority in Can Tho and despite appeals by UNPO and KKF, no acknowledgement or action has been initiated by the Vietnamese authorities. This is just one of many examples of the constant horrors that these vulnerable Khmer-Krom women and girls are subjected to under the notorious communist government. On the opening day of the CEDAW Convention, Miss. Hanh Thach, a young Khmer-Krom woman gave an introductory speech to Committee about the invisible women of the Mekong Delta, the Khmer-Krom women, found to be amongst the most socially and economically disadvantaged peoples in Vietnam. A historic moment for the Khmer-Krom people and especially so for the women, the CEDAW Convention is opening doors for the Khmer-Krom women by providing them with an active voice to demand their long overdue fundamental rights and freedoms. Since Vietnam signed the CEDAW treaty in 1982, its internal oppression of its indigenous and ethnic minorities has seen little development in the areas of promoting women rights. Unsurprisingly, little to none is aware that such a Convention exists to help them combat discrimination based on their gender and ethnic origin. On Tuesday 16th January, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation organized a side event for the members of CEDAW Committee to meet the Khmer-Krom women. The six Committee members, including the representatives from India took up this unique opportunity to meet Mrs. Nit and other Khmer-Krom women about the lack support of women rights for their people. After learning the truth of indigenous Khmer-Krom women and daily struggle and hardships, the Committee members have pledged their support in providing a more active voice for the voiceless thousands of Khmer-Krom women who could not make it to the conference. True to their words, the issue of ethnic and indigenous women became a much debated topic after Vietnam gave its combined Fifth and Six National report covering that country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to the CEDAW Committee on Wednesday 17th January 2007. Led by Mrs. Mme Ha Thi Khiet, Chairperson of the National Committee for the Advance of Women in Vietnam and Head of the Vietnamese Delegation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam were also accompanied by nine other member delegates. Following Vietnam’s report, the floor was then opened for dialogue to the 23-member CEDAW Committee responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women. While Vietnam was praised for its efforts in passing the gender equity law in 2006, Ms. Hazel Gumede Shelton, a distinguished member of the CEDAW committee posed some questions in relation to how the law would affect ethnic minority women. In particular, she questioned Vietnam about how ethnic women are respected in terms of getting education. Ms. Shelton was amongst numerous Committee members posing some important questions about Vietnam’s effort in helping ethnic minority and indigenous women. Previous national reports from Vietnam have been given little to no priority to ethnic and indigenous women. In fact, the fate of thousands of Khmer-Krom women living below the poverty line was not even mentioned despite the fact that the issues of the Khmer-Krom women was first highlighted at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Third Session in 2004. During the morning and afternoon session, members of the CEDAW Committee requested Vietnam to focus on improving the lives of ethnic and indigenous women by educating them about their rights under the CEDAW Convention including translating the CEDAW articles into the Khmer and other ethnic minority languages. Only through educating the women about their rights, can these women begin to make informed decisions about their life without fear or discrimination from the Vietnamese government. The underlying support from the CEDAW committee is offering a glimmer of hope for the thousands of Khmer-Krom women living in the Mekong Delta. Often used and abused, their voices are finally being heard at the United Nations despite the severe suppression by the communist government to incorporate and Vietnaminised the Khmer-Krom women into mainstream society. Please contact our KKF Women Commissioner for further information and support their work to P.O.BOX 0193 PENNSAUKEN, NJ 08110 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org KKF Shadow Report to CEDAW Read morning & afternoon session notes by the General Assembly
Monday 15th January 2007 Speaker: Miss Hanh Thach Honorable CEDAW committee members, we honor to participate in the CEDAW session working toward the realization of the international women right. Read in Khmer Kampuchea Krom is the name for the Mekong Delta region of the current state of Vietnam. Our country measures up to 68,000 square kilometers and is the traditional homeland of Khmer-Krom. Throughout history, our identification and name of the Khmer-Krom people and their ancestral lands have been changed and/or referred differently by various colonizing forces. However through perseverance, our Khmer people remain committed to the principles respected in international law of peace, democracy and justice. The human rights of Khmer-Krom Women, at its core, are being violated daily by the Vietnamese government. From the time when Vietnam encroached upon the land of southern Kampuchea and took control of it, they had begun to strip away the identity of the Khmer-Krom people. The Khmer-Krom Women were forced to encompass all things Vietnamese through Vietnamization such as the adoption of Vietnamese family names, and make the Vietnamese identity their own both in their private and public lives. These restrictions on Khmer cultural identity have made life difficult; it becomes even hard for us to practice our religion. The Vietnamese government does not allow schools that will teach Khmer language, culture, nor tradition to our Khmer children who are the seeds for future generations. Consequently, there have been instances where students are punished and banded from using internet search on the subject of Khmer-Krom. Young women who are trying to learn about their identity and the Vietnam government denied them the right. The growing population of the Khmer-Krom Women is forced to desert their heritage and birthright because they are not given access to tools to empower themselves nor the education to recognize their inherent human rights. Here are some main points illustrated the systematic and gross human right violation taking place today in our homeland. For many decades, the Khmer-Krom indigenous women have been suffering through Vietnam’s following secret ethnic cleansing policies:
- Rice farming is the economic life line of our people and lands on our life. Vietnam’s land grabbing policy against our people means the extermination of our race through starvation and poverty.
- This poverty is a barrier to our people to achieve a higher education. Currently, there are less than ten of Khmer-Krom Women who have completed college degrees among the ten million Khmer-Krom populations.
- The lack of higher education among the majority of Khmer-Krom women resulted in extremely low employments rate. For example there are little to no Khmer-Krom women doctors to treat the near ten million Khmer-Krom people.
- Without education, coupled with the employment hardship, our Khmer-Krom women become victims of the sex trades and human trafficking. They are extremely volatile to HIV and AIDS epidemics.
- Because of the policies and practices, the Khmer-Krom Women who are all farmers have been deceived by the Vietnamese government into practicing the so called tied tube program as part of Vietnam’s policy of controlling the over population growth issue.
- For Khmer-Krom People, we have abundant fertile lands and less farmers The Vietnam government confiscated our lands and lands in our hand become fewer and fewer due to the policy.
Finally, these Khmer-Krom Women are very discouraged and traumatically fearful of standing up to raise their voice against the afore-mentioned discriminations. They have no way out and see no light at the end of the tunnel. The Khmer-Krom people are socially discriminated against in modern day Vietnam as an indigenous people. The education of the Khmer-Krom people is neglected by the Vietnamese government. This lack of educational support and structure has and continue to bring adversity to the Khmer-Krom people as they can only be farmers and peasants living in absolute poverty condition. The Khmer-Krom Women face difficulty gaining access to all forms of health services and all levels of education and basic schooling. This in turn, makes the Khmer-Krom people the poorest segment of the population in southern Vietnam. Education is the key to learn about individual rights as human beings, for without this precious tool, the Khmer-Krom people will never be able to learn that they have god-given rights in this world. The natural equality between men and women was disrupted by the decimator brutal practice of violence by the colonizing forces of Vietnam and the balance remains broken. We are here to restore the inherent dignity and eliminate the double discrimination facing Khmer women. Please read in detail our Shadow Report, Shining the Light of Freedom in Kampuchea Krom for more in depth violations and discriminations on Khmer-Krom Women. Thank you very much