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.
• Khmer-Krom women have been prohibited from wearing their traditional clothes during their cultural ceremonies. • Khmer-Krom women have been prosecuted for watching human rights materials produced by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation • Khmer-Krom women have been banned from participating in demonstrations While it is important to enforce effective legislations and policies to improve the lives of women, all policies must be particularly sensitive to the needs of ethnic or indigenous minorities who are found to be at the extreme end of poverty and discriminated against at the grassroots level. In particular, the process of incorporating indigenous women into mainstream society should not in any form erode their sense of identity and cultural background. Instead, it should be valued, promoted and protected.
Viet Nam has stated in its CEDAW report that it has a total of 54 ethnic nationalities and has implemented effectively to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women via its current laws. While Viet Nam may firmly believes that it is effective, reports at the grassroots level have stated otherwise. In particular, no laws currently exist to specifically protect rights of the ethnic and indigenous women in Viet Nam. More importantly any law passed in the past is not widely known by the population. The laws passed should be distributed to the population, specifically in Khmer language. It would also be necessary to provide copies of international instruments such as CEDAW among the indigenous women in the indigenous language. This is true for the indigenous peoples of Viet Nam especially the Khmer-Krom women and children, who are amongst the most socially, culturally and economically disadvantaged peoples with limited or no access to the vast resources that Viet Nam receives from international donors. Viet Nam stated in its report that “5,000 leaflets about the CEDAW Convention” has been handed out to the Vietnamese women. This figure is particularly disconcerting as out of the 40 million Vietnamese women available, less than 0.001% of the women actually know anything about CEDAW and its important role in ensuring women’s rights. It’s hardly surprising then that indigenous women are unaware such organization exist. While we applauded the creation of a Women’s Union at all levels by the Vietnamese government, we are particularly concerned about its true goal of protecting women. No policies exist to promote and allow for independent organizations to be created for the sole purpose of promoting women’s rights, especially the rights of indigenous women. The following recommendations are to condemn and pursue the policies eliminating discrimination against women in Viet Nam, especially the indigenous Khmer-Krom women: • That CEDAW send a Special Rapporteur to Viet Nam to investigate the real situation of the women in Viet Nam with special attention to reports from Viet Nam government, NGOs and KKF. • Request that the Vietnamese government invest in programs to educate all women, in particular indigenous women about their rights and the role that CEDAW and the Vietnamese authorities has in promoting theirs and interests. • Request the translation of Vietnamese laws and the CEDAW convention text to Khmer and Viet Nam languages and distributed to the Khmer-Krom people, so they can be better informed about their choices and have an active understanding of Viet Nam’s juridical system to ensure that they are fully and equally protected by Viet Nam laws.
While the majority of the Vietnamese women may be enjoying their rights, the indigenous and ethnic women continue to be subjected to constant harassment by local Vietnamese authorities as they crackdown on human rights activities. While Viet Nam boosts that its current law are adequate in eliminating discrimination, the human rights situation has deteriorated and violations have drastically increased among the indigenous population. Their fundamental freedoms and rights as equal citizens of Viet Nam continue to be undermined and not respected by local Vietnamese authorities. The violations continue even to this day. For example the simple act of watching human rights material produced by our organization, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation during the Fourth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples have seen numerous Khmer-Krom people tortured, jailed and prosecuted. For example, Mrs. Neang En and her husband, Mr. Chau Sot was recently taken to the local police station and subjected to a long session of intense questioning after being caught in possession of these human rights materials. Likewise, recent reports have also revealed Vietnamese authorities banning Khmer-Krom women and men from staging non-violent demonstrations. The increasing influx of Khmer-Krom refugees into Cambodia indicates the oppressive nature fostered by the Vietnamese authorities forcing them to flee in the thousands from Viet Nam’s destructive and discriminatory policies against its indigenous peoples.
In regard to the guidelines and policies of article 5, the State of Viet Nam stated that it was determined to “eliminate all forms of discrimination between men and women” in the everyday life of its citizens. It further claimed that the 1992 Constitution doesn’t allow any kind of discrimination especially the children. We are encouraged to see the State of Viet Nam produce countless documents to satisfy the western world regarding gender prejudices. On the other hands how many citizens especially the indigenous Khmer-Krom people have seen such documents? Furthermore, the State of Viet Nam asserted that through its major organizations such as the Women’s Union, Fatherland Front, and the Labour Union, “have shown strength in informing, educating and communicating” gender awareness with the people by mean of radio and television. We received information from the villages, directly from the indigenous peoples, who are enduring systemic gross rights violations. They stated otherwise pointing out the lack of information especially in the indigenous language of the respective regions. In this regard, Mr. Sone Thach, who is 53 years old lives in the village of Loan My, Tam Binh, Vinh Long affirmed that he has not seen any program that promotes gender equality. He also stated that throughout his life there, all he sees and hears are the everyday life of traditional Vietnamese citizens. In addition, the State has never asked him to participate in any informal or educational program about his basic rights, let alone gender discrimination. We also received information from Mr. Art Thach, Mrs. Sea Kim, Mrs. Ut Thi Thach, and Mr. Sanh Thach whom resides in the same village confirmed what Mr. Sone Thach has mentioned earlier. There are numerous others from the village of Loan My whose names are not revealed because they fear of interrogations and intimidations by the Vietnamese authorities. We applaud the State of Viet Nam for trying to implement and educating its citizens on gender role and prejudices but the majority of citizens especially the indigenous peoples aren’t even recognized or have their basic rights respected to exercise gender equality. We believe that in order for the State to successfully inform and educate the people; Viet Nam has to recognize and respect the basic human rights agreed to under international law. We suggest Viet Nam produces documentations in both Vietnamese and Khmer languages especially essential core legal documents from the Constitution to national laws guaranteeing fundamental freedoms to educate the people. We also suggest holding informational sessions in the local villages to teach the villagers their rights in which they already have but have no knowledge of such liberties.
The Khmer-Krom women are amongst the most vulnerable group of people in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam. Poor, uneducated and uninformed, many have been forced to work under unbearable conditions in order to survive. There have been increasing cases of women getting married to get out of their desperate situation only to find themselves sold to prostitution especially in the province of Khleang [renamed Soc Trang]. Others have been lured with promises of a well paid job are caught in a web of trafficking. Many Khmer women are found in the main metropolis cities as they are hunted from their homeland by predatory Viet Nam men aiming to make profits from their sale into prostiution. We appeal to CEDAW and the State of Viet Nam to immediately implement policies and legislation to protect these vulnerable groups through means of providing active educational campaigns and informational sessions so that they can be better informed of the danger of human trafficking.