The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has opened up a three week session in Geneva to discuss the human right violations occurring around the world. Starting from March 12 until 30 March 2007, the session has been much anticipated amongst human rights groups, non governmental organizations, governments and indigenous organizations.
27/03/2007 – Phnom Penh, Cambodia A prayer ceremony for Venerable Eang Sok Thoeun was conducted by Khmer Buddhist monks residing in Samakyrangsey Pagoda, Sangkat Stung Meanchey, Khan Meanchey earlier yesterday.
Words from KKF President, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach. I would like to pay my sincere greetings to our compatriots in Kampuchea Krom as well in Cambodia and abroad and to all our friends and supporters all over the world for opposing the human rights violation committed by the Vietnamese communist government towards our religion and Khmer Krom people as a whole The arrest of our monks in Khleang is real hard evidence that the behavior of the communist Vietnam has never changed from its old tradition. That is the tradition of oppressing, discriminating and insulting people and doing whatever they can in their power to eliminate people who believe in religion or opposing their communist oppression or Ho Chi Minh’s doctrine. The plight of Khmer-Krom people and our non-violent freedom struggle has touched the hearts and conscience of the all people who love the truth and justice. There is increasing international awareness on the issue of Khmer-Krom people, who continue to be violated daily by the Vietnamese government. We have and continue to receive support and solidarity from our Khmer people around the world; especially with recent protests by our monk in front the Vietnam Embassy in Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, their freedom of expression were stopped by the police and claim that it caused a great deal distraction for Cambodia’s highly distinguished guest, the Vietnamese Prime Minister. One should be ashamed of doing nothing but watch as history repeats itself and its former peoples, the Khmer Krom people are not longer recognized as Khmer. Religious freedom in a political sense means simply that we all ought to have this opportunity, unhindered, to hear what is handed down and, subsequently, to practice and to live by what we hear without fear of political coercion or cultural disdain. In theory, there is religious liberty in many parts of the world today; especially Vietnam is one of the worse countries. Most of it civil a constitution pays only lip-service to it; but the practice and reality are far different. In our lives, Buddhist religion is our very most seen as something primarily political, but it is because the politics of the Vietnam government has claimed more and more of our lives. For those who think Vietnamese government is good friend or good neighbor means that they do not know Vietnam well enough or continues to reject the truth of the devil. We would like to appeal to those who believe in religion; please do not be afraid of the truth, come out and tell the world that Vietnamese government will never change it behavior and it is the nature of the communist and their greediness to commit such acts. Today, they disrobed nine monks; tomorrow they will do more if we do not stop them. Today, they kill one monk; tomorrow they will kill many more because their behavior will never change. Together, we can tell the world of our suffering and to immediate stop them from their devil attitudes and ways. “We will never stop struggling while our freedom is at the hands of the devil” T.Thach
15 March 2007 By David Gollust – Voice of America Washington U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed human rights and other issues in a meeting Thursday with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem. The Vietnamese government is accused of a new crackdown on political dissent. VOA’s David Gollust reports from the State Department. The meeting here reflected a continued political rapproachment between the two former adversaries in the Indochina war. But it came against a background of growing concern about alleged backsliding by the Vietnam’s communist government on human rights. The monitoring group Human Rights Watch said last week despite growing global recognition — reflected in Vietnam’s new membership in the World Trade Organization, and recent hosting of the APEC Pacific-rim summit — the Hanoi government has embarked on one of its worst political crackdowns in 20 years. It said among those arrested in recent weeks include two outspoken human rights lawyers and a dissident Roman Catholic priest. At a photo opportunity with her Vietnamese counterpart, Secretary of State Rice declined to respond to reporters’ questions about the issue. However at a briefing just before the start of the meeting, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said human rights was at the top of Rice’s agenda. “The Vietnamese have made some advances in that regard. They’ve made some advances with respect to religious freedoms in Vietnam. There have been, however, some detentions that have been of real concern to the United States and we have raised those issues with Vietnamese officials. Secretary Rice has done that in the past and I would expect that certainly a general discussion about human rights, if not a specific one about these cases, will take place during the meeting,” he said. U.S. officials said the talks also covered Southeast Asian regional issues, trade, and plans for a Washington visit by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, who would be the country’s first post-war head of state to come to the United States. An agreement in principle for the trip was reached during President Bush’s Hanoi visit for the APEC summit last November, but officials here said late Thursday they had no date to announce. The United States and its former communist enemy normalized diplomatic relations in 1995 and President Bush extended normal trade relations to Hanoi at the end of last year. Bilateral trade between the two countries now exceeds $12 billion a year. But Wednesday a leading congressional human rights advocate – New Jersey Republican Chris Smith – said Vietnam’s recent behavior shows that trade and respect for human rights do not always go hand-in-hand. “I hope we finally get it, and I hope the administration gets it, and the congressmen on the Democrat and Republican side who have this naive belief that if you just trade, somehow that trading will matriculate (develop) into respect for human rights. It hasn’t happened in China. It has not happened in Vietnam,” he said. Last November, the State Department removed Vietnam from a list of countries where serious violations of religious freedom are said to occur. But in its annual report on human rights conditions world-wide, issued earlier this month, it said Vietnam’s rights record remained unsatisfactory – noting that opposition movements are officially prohibited amid tightening controls over the press and internet. Foreign Minister Khiem, who traveled to Washington with top officials of the Vietnamese ministries of transport, science, telecommunications and education, is also meeting U.S. legislators and businessmen during his visit. During his State Department visit Thursday, officials of the two countries signed a maritime cooperation agreement.
By John E. Carey Quoc Te Co Van February 25, 2007 There is something of a crisis in human rights abuses in Southeast Asia in general and in Communist Vietnam in particular. According to David M. Kinchen, Editor, Huntington News Network, “hardliners in Vietnam’s politburo in Hanoi are obsessed with punishing, oppressing and even eliminating peoples — such as the Khmer Krom, Montagnards and Hmong Lao, that aligned themselves more than 30 years ago with the United States during the Vietnam War.” The Communist Party of Indochina, founded by Ho Chi Minh, which is the only political entity in Vietnam, is the one organization most responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia, the repression of the boat people (escape from Vietnam has been a punishable crime since 1975), and the re-education camps set up to brainwash everyone from South Vietnam who participated in any way in the war against the Communists. International human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and the Montagnard Foundation are issuing a “Red Alert” of sorts about the human rights abuses ongoing in Vietnam for three reasons: First, the Communist Party in Vietnam has stepped up its assault on ethnic minorities once loyal to the United States and, Second, the United States seems to be looking the other way, and Third, it is difficult to determine “ground truth” in these Communist countries because all the media is strictly controlled by the Communist state. After thousand of Hmong Lao tribal peoples fled Vietnamese and Laotian military aggressions inside of the Communist country of Laos, the Communist Party of Indochina issued an order to eliminate the more than 10,000 of the ethnic minority Hmong Lao, descendants of former CIA soldiers, who remain in hiding in remote mountain areas in Laos. Communist Vietnam is apparently using its soldiers to attack these indigenous peoples and killing thousands of Hmong Lao using extreme measures such as chemical weapons, bombs and rockets. “We know that the Vietnamese are the higher rank military commanders inside of our country Laos, Hanoi is in charge of Laos – as in the case of Cambodia. Hanoi is giving the final orders – we saw them attacking us, we hear them speaking Vietnamese, it is no secret to us who is attacking us Hmong Lao” said Faitou Vue, a Hmong Lao refugee, and CIA veteran who fled Communist Laos’ widening military aggressions to refuge in Thailand. In Vietnam, the indigenous peoples such as the Montagnards and Khmer Krom, who also sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War, endure severe oppression and human rights violations, with many of them escaping to neighboring Cambodia. “But if we stay in Cambodia, the Vietnamese will get us any minute. Cambodia listens to Hanoi, so many of our people got killed or forcefully brought back to Vietnam. The Cambodian authorities do nothing to protect us,” stated one of many hundreds of Khmer Krom refugees, an indigenous peoples from the Mekong Delta, who fled further than Cambodia, hiding as an illegal migrant in Thailand. In December, a group of about 200 Hmong refugees escaped from the Communists along the Thai-Laos border and were assaulted by Thai authorities in an effort to drive them back into the Communist side of the border. Some 22 ethnic Hmong refugees were sent to the Netherlands just two weeks ago as part of a program managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.This occurred only about one month after President Bush and his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Communists Vietnam. One director of refugee operations for the UNHCR told us, “Frankly, we are very disappointed in the response of the United States to the plight of the ethnic minorities in Vietnam and elsewhere.” These Hmong moved from Thailand to the Netherlands were among 153 migrants who have been held at a detention centre near the Thai-Laos border since December for illegally entering Thailand. Also two weeks ago, inside of Vietnam — five Khmer Krom Buddhist temples, together with their Khmer Krom communities held a peaceful demonstration to request to Hanoi to be allowed to maintain their Buddhist religion, which they say was not granted. “They abuse our people for so long, we are arrested for teaching our own language, or our history, and they always target our Buddhist monks, the heart and soul of our Khmer Krom people,” said T. Thach, president of NGO Khmer Krom Federation. “Our temples are the center of our communities. We are imprisoned and tortured when we listen to the radio from the outside word, or when we check the internet related to our concerns. Writing e-mails to the outside world is prohibited.” T. Thach continued: “If our Khmer Krom Buddhist monks teach the sacred Buddhist language Pali — they are ordered by Hanoi to include Communist doctrines, if not, they get disrobed and are not allowed to be monks anymore, and are imprisoned as traitors and enemies of Communism . This is not right: our religion has nothing to do with Communism, or any form of politics, it is our religion, and sacred to us. It is the teaching of peace and rightful conduct in life. But we are not allowed to maintain our religion, we are not even allowed to maintain our Khmer Krom culture, way of life, actually, they want to Vietnamize us in a manner, that nothing would be left from us, as Khmer Krom peoples, or Montagnards peoples — and we object to that.” “One can always tell when a group of Montagnards escapes into Mondulkiri Province. Vietnamese army and police officials chase after them and cross the border as if they owned western Cambodia,” said journalist The Co Van, from the Montagnard Foundation. “The Cambodian provincial police are alerted, and the guesthouses in the capital of Sen Monorum quickly fill with Cambodian police and army officials from neighboring provinces,” The Co Van added. “What a tragedy that America has abandoned our former allies in the Vietnam War a second time. Now the U.S. has the leverage to force the Vietnamese government to treat the Montagnards better but it remains silent when Hanoi glosses over their draconian human rights record in their bid for entrance into the WTO.” The Montagnard Foundation reports that they hold evidence that bounty hunters capture the Montagnard refugees in Cambodia, and sell them back to the Vietnamese for $20 to $100. Twenty dollars is a month’s pay for a policeman in this part of the world. “Why does the mainstream media ignore the plight of the Montagnards, the Khmer Krom, and their cousins, the Hmong in Laos for over 30 years, and still continue to do so?” asked Chue Chou Tchang, from the Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) Veterans. SGU Veterans is a U.S.- based Hmong human rights organization organization. “One has to wonder why the Vietnamese Communist Party is so paranoid and ruthless in their treatment of a few Montagnards and Khmer Krom — escaping their clutches in the middle of the night,” said Van. “Why Laos, under the advice of Hanoi pressures Thailand to force thousands of Hmong Lao refugees back to Laos? That’s because they know they can get away with it and that the mainstream media in the West really isn’t interested in the human rights abuses of Communist police states” said Van. EDITOR’s NOTE: The South Vietnamese called American military advisors “Co Van” during the war in Vietnam. But the word translates more exactly as “consultant.” Mr. Carey is former president of International (“Quoc Te”) Defense Consultants Inc., a company of Co Van that has operated since 1997. Source: Peace and Freedom
15 March 2007 – No country is immune from human rights problems and therefore they can all benefit from cooperating frankly with international rights mechanisms, the top United Nations official for the subject said today. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told the UN Human Rights Council, which is meeting in Geneva, that all nations should cooperate more with her Office and with other mechanisms. “I am persuaded that more openness and receptivity on the part of governments bring additional benefits and resources in facing up to human rights challenges,” he said. Her comments came in an address to Council delegates that followed the presentation of her annual report yesterday. In that report Ms. Arbour said a key test of whether the Council is working better than its derided predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, would be the functioning of the “universal periodic review,” the new mechanism that will allow the rights records of all States to be scrutinized. Today the High Commissioner also discussed her Office’s country-specific reports on the situation in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Colombia. In the case of Afghanistan, although the troubled country is making serious efforts at improving its performance across many areas, including security and justice, its transition from war and misrule has been overshadowed by the re-emergence of conflict with the Taliban and related forces last year. “Increased violence impedes much needed development aid from reaching the population,” she said. “This compounds the condition of grinding poverty that affects the vast majority of Afghans,” adding that women still suffering from widespread discrimination and arbitrary detention and torture are reported regularly. But she added that the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission “continues to do excellent work, despite risks due to the security situation,” and her Office was supporting it. In Cambodia, Ms. Arbour’s Office was giving priority to what she described as “persisting patterns of impunity and to issue faced by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as other groups and individuals defending human rights.” She also stressed the need to push for a more independent and professional judiciary, as well as to encourage the creation of legislation more in line with Cambodia’s international human rights obligations. Colombia’s persistent armed conflict and high levels of drug trafficking and other forms of organized crime have made it much harder to protect human rights in the Latin American nation, the High Commissioner said, noting that guerrillas continue to take civilian hostages. “Human rights defenders, including trade unionists and social leaders, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, displaced persons, women, children and journalists, are among the most affected,” she said. Overall Ms. Arbour emphasized the importance of tackling impunity around the world, as well as fighting discrimination in all its forms. The Council is also currently considering reports on such topics as the defamation of religion, racism, children in armed conflict, the right to development, missing persons, and the death penalty. Source: UN News Centre
Freedom of speech – Often MPtv is the only media outlet (well, maybe that’s exaggerating our description a tad) to actually haul its ass out in the cold and cover events taking place on Canada’s front lawn – the expanse outside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. That is where the Sergeant-at-arms allows demonstrations to take place, usually under the watchful eye of the RCMP. Obviously, people come there to be seen by their government. But, usually, that does not happen. And such was the case when the Khmerkrom-Canadian Community showed up to talk about religious persecution of Buddhist monks in South Vietnam. Buddist monk, the Venerable Dhammo Tach Truong was there, but no MPs and no ministers. Why should you care about these guys? Because we all should. Taking your cause to Parliament Hill, within sniffing distance of the tailpipes of the prime minister’s motorcade is what this great country’s all about. Source: Member of Parliament Television
Speech by Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation Friday 9 February 2007 Cambodia To the honourable UN Special Rapporteur and Madam Chair, We would like to express our sincere thank you for allowing us to represent an active voice on behalf of the Khmer-Krom people living in Mekong Delta of Vietnam and our refugees in Thailand and Cambodia. Firstly, I would like to give you a brief introduction about Kampuchea-Krom. Kampuchea-Krom is the Khmer name for the Mekong Delta of today’s Vietnam, with an area covering 68, 600 square kilometres. Vietnam is currently ranked as the second biggest world exporter of rice and yet according to a WHO report, its indigenous Khmer Krom people are found to be the poorest. We would like to bring to your attention the desperate and at times deadly situation of our Khmer-Krom people and refugees. Since 2004, there has been an influx of Khmer-Krom refugees, monks and civilians into Cambodia as a result of the constant harassment and oppressive nature under the Vietnamese government. Their crime is for simply watching or reading human rights materials such as newsletter and DVD detailing our activities at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2005. These materials were produced by the KKF in an effort to increase our people’s awareness of their fundamental freedom and basic human rights as humans and as the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta. In 2005, the Cambodian government accepted the Khmer-Krom refugees automatically as Cambodia Citizens. This meant that the UNHCR was no longer obliged to offer these refugees any aid or protection. Hundreds are currently stranded in Cambodia while hundreds have fled to the borders of Thailand, only be further oppressive and restricted as Thailand authorities prohibit their movement. To this day, no humanitarian organisation or NGO has provided aid to them. For the millions of Khmer-Krom living in the Mekong Delta, their lives continue to be dominated by fear and intimidation as local Vietnamese authorities continue to crack down on human rights movement or association. For example, a gathering of more than 10 people requires permission from Vietnamese authorities. Likewise, traditional ceremonies have been changed at will by the Vietnamese government with free and informed consent of the people. I urge you to read up more about such violation as enclosed in the booklet given out for more examples of discrimination against our Khmer Krom people. The increasing numbers of protests by Khmer-Krom people in regards to land rights and unfair treatment in recent months is a good indicator of their increasing knowledge of their rights as human beings and determination to gain their long overdue basic fundamental freedom and rights. Nonetheless many continued to be heavily monitored and restricted. In light of these situations, we would like to suggest the following recommendations:
- Ask for the recognition of the Khmer-Krom people as the indigenous owners of the Mekong Delta.
- Request the help of UNHCR, AUSAID and WHO to provide immediate essential aids including food, shelter and medical aid for these refugees residing in Cambodia and especially in Thailand.
- Ask that the UN provide special protection for refugees fleeing human rights prosecution by the Vietnamese government.
- Seek the UNHCR’s help in securing their protection by granting refugee status and relocating the refugees where appropriate, including resettlement in other countries.
- Suggest that UNHCR work in collaboration with the Cambodian government to develop a legal system and documentations of converting the Khmer-Krom refugee status to Cambodian citizen in order to protect their rights and interests.
- Urge the UN Special Rapporteur to investigate the human rights situation in Kampuchea-Krom.
- Request that the Vietnamese government uphold all international treaties including the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the CEDAW, CESCR, CCPR, CERD, CRC, CRCPAC and CRCOPSC by distributing these documents in the indigenous people’s language.
- Request the VN government include the Khmer-Krom in all issues relating to their well being so they could be informed about decisions that affects them.
- Suggest VN start initiating an environment of inclusivity with the Khmer-Krom people by allowing them to promote their rights as individuals and as peoples.
- Ask that funding be available for Khmer-Krom people to be actively involved in such conferences so they can voice their rights, problems and fears without prosecution from the Vietnamese government.
- Request that there are indigenous specific funding me allocated to indigenous peoples such as the Khmer Krom.
This three day conference is a crucial moment for the Khmer-Krom people as this is the first time in which they could bring the issues to the UN Special Rapporteur. By having such collaboration, we believe we are one step closer to bring recognition respect for the Khmer-Krom people and their basic fundamental freedom and rights. KKF Representatives attending the consultation
Wednesday, March 14, 2007 By Ung Chansophea Cambodge Soir Translated from French by Tola Ek A Khmer Krom representative in Takeo is charged by the court, meanwhile 48 people who came from Vietnam and who are under the charge of the representative fear that they may be sent back. Seun Savang, the Takeo representative of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Friendship association (KKKF), is charged by the court, he is accused by the local authority of manipulating a letter authorizing about 40 Khmer Krom people to settle temporarily in a rice field in Kirivong district, Takeo province. The legal charge was brought when the 48 people from Kampuchea Krom who arrived in Cambodia from Vietnam a few weeks earlier, started denouncing the pressures exerted by the authority to force them to go back to Vietnam. Seun Savang who took care of the 48 Khmer Krom people, did not reply to the Takeo court summon on Thursday, instead he fled to Phnom Penh to hide. “I am not scared, I did not commit any wrongdoing. I am only defending poor Khmer Krom people. But, I fled because I don’t trust the justice. If it were to be independent, I wouldn’t have anything to fear about,” he said. The KKKF association representative is accused of using a letter from the Preah Bat Choan [Chum] commune authority to bring in 6 extra people in addition to the 42 Khmer Krom people, for the rice harvest. Now they are 48, Long Sareth, the commune chief, argued. And Seun Savang keeps on telling the media that these Khmer Krom people are refugees, chased by the Vietnamese authority. In fact, they are entering Cambodia simply to look for work in the rice field, to harvest, just like every year,” he said while stressing that these “false information” finally ended up causing a reinforcement of the border controls on the Vietnamese side against the Khmer Krom people. Long Sareth said the majority of the 48 Khmer people from Vietnam who have settled in his commune, would in fact be Seun Savang’s relatives. The statement of the commune chief was categorically rejected by one of the women in the Khmer Krom people group who wanted to remain anonymous. She said that she was stopped with the group of 48 for several hours at the border on the Vietnamese side and also on the Cambodian side. She fears returning back to Vietnam where the authority suspects that the Khmer Krom people left for political reason. Recently, the [Cambodian] authority asked them to affix their thumbprints on a document. “We do not know why, but we are scared that they are trying to kick us back to Vietnam. Each night, we see Vietnamese soldiers prowling around our tents. Nobody dares get out from this area, for fear for being killed,” the woman said. “In any case, after the harvest, they should go back home,” the commune chief said. He claims that the thumbprints were collected only to count the number of field laborers.
14 March 2007 By Khim Sarang Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata Ek Sitha, a former Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) activist who was accused of participating in the formation of a shadow government with SRP MP Cheam Channy, said that 80 Khmer Kampuchea Krom people and Jaray (ethnic minority) people who escaped Ratanakkiri province, as well as a number of other SRP activists who took refuge in Pak Kret district, Nonthaburi province, Thailand, including 20 children, have been arrested by the Thai authority on Tuesday morning at 9:30 AM. They were accused of living in Thailand illegally. Ek Sitha said: “They arrested altogether 80 people exactly, including both the Jaray and Khmer people. We cannot tell you all their names because about 15 minutes after I left, they (the Thai authority) arrived to make the arrest. Among the 80 arrested, 20 of them are children.” Source: RFA report