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