Statements submitted to the UN regarding Khmer-Krom

Finally, IFPRERLOM wishes to draw attention to discrimination experienced by the Khmer-Krom, an indigenous people who lived in the former Cochin China, occupied by the French colonial Government from 1867 to 1949 and now constituting the southern part of present-day Vietnam. One of the current concerns is the State-supported settlement of Vietnamese in the Khmer-Krom homeland. This was reported in the Concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD): Viet Nam of 15 August 2001, which stated that: “The Committee is further concerned about the alleged population transfer to territories inhabited by indigenous groups, disadvantaging them in the exercise of their social, economic and cultural rights.” The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) while considering Viet Nam’s second Periodic Report requested the country “to provide information on minorities in Vietnam, including the Khmer-Krom community”. 9 However, the assurances provided in Vietnam’s response to the HRC dated 23 April 2002,10 contrasted with the then and current reality of Khmer-Krom situation. Whereas the response indicated that the Khmer-Krom community suffered no alleged human rights violations, in actuality this contradicted reports of ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination. Many remain too terrorized to speak out due to fear of oppression and retaliation, as indicated in the report, “Vietnam: The Silencing of Dis sent,” by Human Rights Watch of 1 May 2000. IFPRERLOM urges the Human Rights Council; – to request Vietnam to take measures in response to the CERD observations; – to re-examine the information provided in response to the HRC request; and – to call upon Vietnam to extend invitation to the relevant thematic mandates of the Council. Read the original document (PDF) ———— On 08 February 2007 approximately 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks partook in a peaceful protest in Soc Trang (Kleang) Province to mark their right to practice their own form of their Buddhist religion. The protest for religious freedom was met with a renewed wave of oppression against Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks from the Mekong Delta. Local Vietnamese police responded quickly by surrounding nearby temples, placing 60 Buddhist Monks under effective house arrest at Wat Ta Sek, including the Venerable Kim Ngoun and the Venerable Son Thy Thon, trapped inside. At the time of writing, all four temples involved with the protest, Wat Ta Sek, Wat Peam Boun, Wat Teok Praiy, and Wat Ta Men, remain encircled by heavily armed police and military units, with entry and exit to the Temples severely restricted. Arrested Monks were forcefully disrobed, not only deeply damaging to the individual, but also facilitating Monks to be imprisoned as civilians. Alarmed by the heavy-handed reaction and efforts to punish those responsible for nonviolent act of protest, IFPRERLOM appeals to the Human Rights Council to denounce this attempt to suppress the emerging human rights movement within the Khmer Krom community, and urges the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders and UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit, with unrestricted access, the areas of the indigenous peoples concerned. Read the original document (PDF)

VN censored and blocked 2 documentaries at the UN

Two human rights documentaries got censored at the UN – upon request by Viet Nam during the 6th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in NYC, in May 2007. The officially scheduled special side events on UN premises where to raise awareness on the human rights situation of the Hmong Lao people – who fled from military aggressions in Laos to Thailand, and the religious oppression endured by the Khmer Krom people in southern Vietnam. UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson’s office, repeatedly asked by UN journalists, confirmed on Thursday the 24 May, 2007 at a press conference: “A formal complaint by the Permanent Mission of Viet Nam to the United Nations was received on 18 May by the Chairperson of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues regarding the scheduled screening of two films on UN premises on 22 and 23 May. The Ambassador of Viet Nam expressed in his letter to the Chairperson of the Permanent Forum grave concerns about the contents of the films as being alarmingly biased against the State of Viet Nam. Given that the United Nations is an organization of Member States, and in light of the formal protest of a Member State, the department of Economical and Social Affairs (DESA)was of the view that screening these films on UN premises would be inappropriate and that the films could be screened off the UN premises. “I favored the screening of the films, but DESA pulled the “member states say” card” said Vickay Tauli Corpuz, the Chairperson of the UNPFII who received prior the letter written by Viet Nam, at a following UN press conference on the same day to UN journalists. By this logic, what if Sudan said, “We don’t want there to be any further discussion or film screenings about Darfur” — would the UN move all such events outside the building? wrote Matthew Russell Lee, UN journalist from Inner City Press. “The Vietnamese do have a lot to hide, if they have to block the film “Hunted Like Animals” , which is filmed in Laos and Thailand, and not in Vietnam”, said Kue Xiong, president of Lao Human Rights Council, a Hmong Lao organization based in the US, and one of the organizers of the cancelled side event screening. “There are Vietnamese soldiers in Laos, and our people say that specially high rank Vietnamese military officials are involved in the genocide against our people in Laos. This is going on for over 30 years, since the Vietnam war ended, and our people remain trapped and hiding in the jungles of Laos, because they are persecuted due to that they where former allies and the secret army for the US” added Vaughn Vang, the director of the same Hmong organization.”Hunted Like Animals is the first film who gives our people a real voice, and speaks the truth.” “The film is already out in the world, we send over 1500 DVDs to UN agencies, heads of states and Human rights channels, Vietnam can block my films at UN premises, but they can not silence the voices of the desperate Hmong people, who explain what is happening to them in Laos, and why they fled to Thailand, nor the Khmer Krom voicing their religious oppression” said filmmaker and human rights advocate Rebecca Sommer “But we screened the films regardless, a block away from the UN, I even invited the Ambassador of Vietnam to attend our screenings because I believe in dialogue” Sommer added “in a way, Vietnam did us a huge favor, because now everyone is even more interested in the documentaries, so we have to thank them for their UN-diplomatic action against the freedom of expression. “Now the world can see, how Vietnam censors the truth to come out-even at the UN, it is hundred times worse in our homeland, with our Khmer Krom people living in southern Vietnam. Imagine how oppressed and mistreated our people are – the film Eliminated Without Bleeding is showing that, and that’s what the Vietnamese are so afraid to have it screened.” said Thach Thach, president of the Khmer Krom Federation, the organizer of the second side event which got cancelled. “Over 200 Indigenous and non governmental Organization, leaders to their tribal nations and peoples, including UN officials, signed a letter of objection addressed to DESA”, said one of the organizers of the cancelled events, “we are highly concerned that a state can come and say-don’t let them talk during a UN conference for Indigenous Peoples. That should not happen, the PFII is for Indigenous Peoples to address their grievances, and that is what those documentaries are about, they give a voice to those – which are silenced.” To watch video clips of the documentaries Eliminated Without Bleeding “Hunted Like Animals To download a comprehensive Report on the Hmong Lao issue, submitted to the UN system in 2006 visit http://www.rebeccasommer.org/press.html For more information, please contact: Thach Thach, Khmer Krom Federation: (519) 659-3920 Kue Xiong, Lao Human Rights Council: (651) 253-3709 Rebecca Sommer, filmmaker: (718) 3021949

Verbal dispute between Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and Vietnamese official

23 May 2007 By Mayarith – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy of KI Media Since last week, a verbal dispute erupted between the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and a Vietnamese government official, over the truth regarding the sentence handed down on Khmer Krom monks in Southern Vietnam. At the Sixth UN Permanent Forum held in New York City, a representative of the KKF delegation raised the issue of Hanoi’s pressure and oppression against Khmer Kampuchea Krom people in their practice of Buddhism in Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam). However, Hanoi’s representative at the UN reacted by saying that the KKF claims are propaganda and accusations made by a party that is opposed to the Hanoi regime. Last week, Nguyen Tan Than, the deputy-representative of Hanoi’s permanent mission at the UN, accused the KKF and the Montagnard Foundation – based in the US – of involvement in separatism in Vietnam. During the conference, Nguyen Tan Than requested that Khmer Krom and Montagnard representatives be banned from attending the forum. Nguyen Tan Than verbal accusations were pursued until this week during the Sixth session of the UN Permanent Forum which will be held until 25 May. During a speech given at the Sixth UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), Nguyen Tan Than defended Hanoi’s actions, in particular, the recent arrest and sentence of Khmer Krom monks. Nguyen Tan Than said: “ It is very regrettable and very discouraging to see this Forum believing baseless information from an outside source rather than believing information provided by our government, or the information about our effort to help the 53 ethnic minorities in Vietnam. A declaration which we heard today, claims that our [Hanoi] government arrested and sentenced a number of monks, as if these actions were taken based on [Hanoi’s] opposition to religious belief, or based on an alleged peaceful demonstration.” Nguyen Tan Than also added that: “The constitution and the law in Vietnam guarantee the right to freedom, religion, and belief, and they guarantee the equality of rights among everybody in front of the law. These are the goals that Vietnam will pursue in order to develop the country’s law. Whoever perpetrates a crime, must be sentenced under the Vietnamese law, irrespective of whether they are ethnic minorities or their religious belief.” Thach Ngoc Thach, the representative of the KKF delegation, reacted to Nguyen Tan Than’s defense of the Hanoi regime. He said that KKF brought in documents detailing the accusations KKF made against Hanoi, and they will be displayed to the UN conference on Tuesday, so that the world could witness the violation of the rights of indigenous people in Vietnam, and that these violations actually took place. Thach Ngoc Thac said: “They accused the monks of creating a traffic jam, of creating disorder in the village only, this is neither a crime for creating separatism, nor is it a crime to hurt the interest of society. We want to show to the UN and to the forum that even Vietnam’s own representative did not receive the actual information from his own government, it is totally the opposite, and today we will bring to the forum about the sentence handed down in Khleang province (Soc Trang), a case which the Vietnamese representative is contradicting with his own government.” UNPFII will conclude this Friday. Thach Ngoc Thach said that he will try all he can to provide some points for Vietnam to recognize. “We demand that, in term of Cambodian Buddhism, it should be administered by Khmer Krom monks, and not by the Vietnamese government, that is: all sentences involving religion should involve the Khmer (Krom) community, it should not be an oppression, it should not be a sentence without proper consultation with Khmer (Krom) people and Khmer (Krom) Buddhists. We do not want to see the Vietnamese government doing anything it wants.” Thach Ngoc Thach said that the Vietnamese effort to prevent KKF and the Montagnard Foundation from participating in the forum was a failure. He said that Mrs. Wichy, the UNPFII chairwoman, said at the beginning of this week, that all indigenous people must have their voices in front of the law. The chairwoman also said that any country that have issues with indigenous people, it must discuss them in front of the law, it should not violate (the indigenous people), and it should avoid using violence against indigenous people living inside its borders.

Hardships faced by Khmer Krom people who fled to Cambodia

23 May 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy In Daun Keo district, Takeo province, at least 100 families are living in small huts covered with dilapidated roof made out of leaves, alongside a provincial sewer ditch. Even though some of these residents fled from Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam) since the 80s, and others only arrived in the past few years, one of their common problems is their lack of lands for farming or for housing. 40-something Chau Man, who came from Svay Tong district, Moat Chrouk province (An Giang province in Vietnamese), said: “I came in 1996 because in Kampuchea Krom, there was no work. I used to own a plot of land on a hill, it was a mango orchard which provided me with a good income. But, they (the Vietnamese authority) took away my orchard, they turned it into a rock quarry. I am telling you the honest truth. (Since then) we didn’t have anything at all, that made us decide to come and earn a living in Cambodia. (But,) earning a living here is very difficult.” Chau Man provided additional details about his early arrival in Cambodia: “When we first arrived, we begged people for a place to live. I lived in a pig sty, and when it rains, with my children we had to sit up. At first, I worked by pulling a cart at the market, and after that I became a trash scavenger. Since the beginning, they (the Cambodian authority) considered us as immigrants, we are not considered as Khmer Krom who have the same red blood as them. That’s why I said that in Kampuchea Krom, we were attacked by the crocodiles, but when we arrive in Cambodia, the Khmer people, our blood brothers, they don’t care about us, they call us Kampuchea Krom, (this is like being attacked by) tigers.” Thach Luong, who came from Khleang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese) with his 4 children in 1996, said that he has some education, he knows Vietnamese and he knows very well Cambodian, but when he arrived, there was no work for him. Furthermore, his four children were also being discriminated and they were not allowed to attend school. Thach Luong said: “There was no work, all the government positions were filled already. There was nothing left for us who came (to Cambodia) later. Those who arrived in 1979 found some work, as for me, I am fluent in Vietnamese because I attended school up to grade 8, and I also took all the Cambodian classes. In 1973, I had a job (in Vietnam), but later on, the jobs became scarce, I then worked as a porter. When I first arrived in Cambodia, I went to ask (the school) so that 3 of my children could attend classes, I ask them to let me pay for only one out of the three, but they said that they would only allow one of my three children to attend school without paying. I told them then that there was no need (for the children to attend school).” 41-year-old Chau Chan Dara who came from Moat Chrouk province (Chau Doc in Vietnamese) said that the (Cambodian) authority does not recognize Khmer Krom as Cambodian citizens, and they consider them as immigrants. This classification prevented him from finding work. “It’s so difficult to find a porter job, or a shoe repair job, there was no work … they (Cambodian authority) do not care about me as a Khmer Krom, I do not have the same right as others, they said that we are refugees.” Khmer Krom people interviewed by RFA have all indicated that their lands (in Kampuchea Krom) have been confiscated by the Viet authorities, and they were forced to leave their birth land to come to Cambodia, but when they arrived here, they are faced with numerous difficulties: no housing, no jobs, no money, and no assistance from the government. Most Khmer Krom people are working as porters, construction workers, some are working as trash scavengers, some sell cakes on the street, while others are pulling carts to make a living. Mum Channy, a facilitator of the Khmer Krom Human Rigths Defense Associaition, said that there is no assistance whatsoever provided by the Cambodian government to Khmer Krom people who fled to Cambodia. To the contrary, the discrimination against Khmer Krom is on the rise. “No land or housing has been provided by the authority to Khmer Krom people, the authority should provide them a place for them to live, this is not like giving them startup funds. A few days ago, our Khmer Krom people went to borrow money from the village funds, but they were told that they are Khmer Krom, so they couldn’t borrow the money at all. They are being discriminated.” Opposition leader Sam Rainsy recognized these problems, and he also said that Khmer Krom people should receive their legal rights. “They (Khmer Krom) said, they complained, and their complaint is fully legitimate. They said that in Vietnam, they were considered as Cambodians, but when they arrive in Cambodia, they are considered as Vietnamese. So they don’t know where else to turn to, they have no confidence. It is time that we (Cambodian government) recognize their rights as Cambodian citizens, just like any other Cambodian citizens. Therefore, the current administration should pay attention and accept Khmer Krom people who decide to live in Cambodia currently, there should be some means for them to have a decent living, so that they enjoy the same rights as other Cambodian citizens.” CPP MP Chiem Yeap declared that the government has always paid attention to the flow of immigrants (into Cambodia). He denied that there is any discrimination against Khmer Krom. He also requested that (the government) resolves now the issue of the living condition of Khmer Krom people. Chiem Yeap said: “Wherever they are, if they say they are Khmer [as in Khmer Krom], then I call on the local authority, as well as the government authority, and even myself as a lawmaker, if we are faced with such pleading, we cannot avoid but help those who are in need, and we must do whatever we can to push all Khmer [Krom] children who have the same blood as us, to study, to learn in order to defend and rebuild our countries again.” Khmer Krom associations in Cambodia said that currently, about 1.5 million Khmer Krom people are living here. The majority of them live in Phnom Penh city, and some are living in various provinces, they are constantly on the move in search for a better living condition.

UNPO Address to the UNPFII

2007-05-21 In a joint statement to the Sixth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), held from 14 to 25 May 2007 at the UN headquarters in New York, UNPO, its Members, and its partners, focuses on the environment and suggests ‘Climate Change’ as the thematic context of the Seventh Session. The ongoing session of the Forum in New York is tackling a range of issues relating to indigenous peoples (IPs) worldwide and is seen as one of the main global platforms for IPs, with approximately 2,000 delegates attending. Several UNPO Members are also attending the Sixth Session of the PFII, including; Aboriginals in Australia, Ahwazi, Batwa, Buffalo River Dene Nation, Chin, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cordillera, Crimean Tatars, Kalahui Hawaii, Hmong, Inner Mongolia, Khmer Krom, Maasai, Ogoni, and West Papua. The joint statement was signed by UNPO, Aboriginals in Australia (FAIRA), Maasai (MPIDO), Ahwazi Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Chin Human Rights Organisation and Geneva Call, and relates to agenda Item 4b of the Session: “Implementation of recommendations on the six mandated areas and on Millennium Development Goals – The Environment”

JOINT STATEMENT

Sixth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, 17 May 2007 The United Nations, New York Issued jointly by: UNPO, FAIRA, MPIDO, AHRO, KKF, Chin Human Rights Organisation, MOSOP and Geneva Call Madam Chair, On behalf of UNPO, – the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization – counting almost 70 nations and indigenous peoples and more than 200 million individuals worldwide, I would like to express the acknowledgment of our Members of the choice this year’s special theme “Territories, lands and natural resources” – issues which represent key obstacles faced by UNPO Members worldwide today. There are all too many cases of Indigenous Populations losing control over resources vital to their communities. UNPO calls upon the UN specialised agencies to ensure in the process of implementation: – that unrepresented nations and peoples everywhere are promoted to full and equal partners in discussions relevant to their environment and included in the decision making processes which seek to balance the economic benefits of resource exploitation against its environmental costs Madam Chair, on the specific issue of the environment UNPO welcomes the request for a report on climate change mitigation efforts for indigenous peoples as mentioned in Your opening this morning. UNPO would like to further highlight the following key areas of concerns in terms of implementation: (Landmines Recognise No Cease-fire) Not only are more than 70 people killed or injured by anti-personnel mines daily, but landmines also threaten entire communities as they become a tremendous environmental problem severely affecting for instance indigenous peoples in Burma. With large tracts of agricultural land being mined, essential activities such as farming, gathering firewood and fetching water becomes a life-threatening exercise. UNPO urges that landmines be fully recognised as an environmental problem and that the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recognise in particular the vulnerable situation of indigenous peoples. (When Livelihoods are Cut Away & The Curse of Black Gold) Deforestation is taking place on an alarming scale, with annual losses in areas inhabited by UNPO Members, such as Tibet, the Batwa of Rwanda, Maasai, and West Papua, Bougainville and Aceh in Southeast Asia, bearing the brunt of the environmental cost. Moreover, some of the most severe environmental problems in the world are caused by exploration, retrieval and transport of oil. All too frequently the voices of indigenous communities in oil-rich lands, such as the Ahwazi-Arabs in Iran, the Ogoni in Nigeria and the Khmer Krom in Vietnam, are ignored and overlooked by competing interests. UNPO asks that the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) issue regular communications to major logging, oil and mineral resource extraction companies to urge the developing of corporate responsibility programmes which are sensitised to indigenous peoples and their livelihoods Moreover, UNPO plans to coordinate a series of meetings that look at good practices that have ensured the human rights of indigenous peoples, and calls on a study to be drafted by the UNPFII members exploring options to protect human rights of uncontacted people, to be developed through meetings coordinated by indigenous peoples before the next UNPFII session. Finally, UNPO asks that indigenous peoples dealing with Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) focusing on fossil fuels engage in negotiations based on the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. UNPO maintains that indigenous peoples’ voice be heard in the discourse on climate change, as they are the first to face the impacts of climate change. UNPO urges that UNPFII endorse climate change as a theme for next year’s session and the reports from indigenous peoples meetings be part of the official documents in the meeting. Madam Chair, UNPO believes that the above recommendations will further aid progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and protect the rights of indigenous peoples. Lastly, UNPO would like to reiterate its full support for the call for the immediate adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the UN General Assembly. Thank you. Source: UNPO

Vietnamese Communist Government Has No Shame

As with previous years, The Vietnamese Communist (VC) government representative was shamelessly lying at the United Nations Permanent Forum on the Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) of their hard works to improving the living conditions of the 53 ethnics in Vietnam. On May 17, 2007, a KKF’s representative, Ms. Sothy Kien, delivered a joint statement with the Montagnard Foundation at UNPFII, on Item 4(a) regarding to the Economic and Social Development, to recommend the solutions to help Vietnam to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Instead of appreciating the recommendations from the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples at this forum as the other countries do with the recommendations they received from their indigenous peoples, the VC government’s representative, Mr. Nguyen Tat Thanh, delivered a speech on May 18, 2007, to reject and accuse the KKF and Montagnard Foundation as “engaging in separatist activities against the State of Viet Nam, including through, inter alia, spreading false information”. One of the purposes of the UNPFII is to invite the Indigenous peoples and the governments from around the world to have an open dialog to present their concerns about the Indigenous issues and also to provide the recommendations to solve the issues. The VC government sent their representatives to attend this forum, but the VC government refused to recognize the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples as the Indigenous peoples. They have also tried to stop the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples, to exercise their rights in front of the members of this forum, to promote the Human Rights for their voiceless Khmer Krom and Degar people in their homeland. If the VC government has done as they mentioned in their speech, why do they scare and try to stop the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples to present their recommendations in this forum? The intention of the VC government to prevent the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples to bring up their concerns and recommendations in this forum show that the freedom of expression as mentioned in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Vietnam doesn’t exist at all. The intention of the VC government to eliminate the rights of the indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples at this forum also shows that it does not only personally attack the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and Montagnar Foundation organizations, but it also attacks other indigenous organizations around the globe who come to this forum to bring up the Indigenous issues to the UN. The KKF and Montagnard Foundation have no intention of involving in the separatist activities as the VC government accused. These two organizations have requested the VC government to have an open dialog with the assistant of this forum and International community to solve the confliction between the Indigenous peoples in Vietnam and the VC government, but the VC government has showed no sign of cooperation. This shameful gesture is showing that the VC government keeps practicing the devil acts. Because of their intention to stop the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Degar peoples to express their concerns in this forum, the members of this forum note that the VC government’s actions do not match its rhetoric, and actually show that the VC government is taking the steps backwards to achieve the MDGs. Since 2005, the KKF has been insulted by the aggressive natures of the VC government in this forum. In 2006, some of the forum members, such as: Mr. Pasharam and Mr. Littlechild, could not stand and made the intervention with the VC government’s speeches. The VC government still does not learn from the intervention lessons by the members of this forum last year. It is shameful that the VC government attends UNPFII to discuss about the Indigenous issues in their country, but they do not recognize the indigenous peoples in its own country as the Indigenous peoples. Moreover, when KKF and Montagnard Foundation bring up the real issues that the voiceless Indigenous Khmer-Krom and Degar peoples in their homeland have no rights to express, the VC government accused them as involving the separatist activities against its government. This shows that the VC government continues its Vietnamization Plan to eliminate the Indigenous peoples in Vietnam. After Viet Nam was removed from the Country of Particular Concern (CPC) list prior to become a member of WTO by the United States, there are countless people have been arrested because of standing up for their own rights to practice their own religions and the land rights. Some of those victims are the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and Khmer-Krom farmers. On behalf of KKF, I would like to ask all our Khmer-Krom people back home and around the globe to stand up together to show our unity and strength. We are here at this forum to bring our people issues to the UN and keep fighting for our people rights and freedom. “They scarified their lives and we must show our unity and love” Please make your donation today to support our KKF team who are working tirelessly at the UNPFII to fight for the justice for our people back home. Thank you for your support. T.Thach

Vietnam requests the banning of Khmer Krom from UN Forum

20 May 2007 By Mayarith – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy Thach Ngoc Thach, KKF Executive Director: The accusations by the Cambodian government spokesman came out even before Hanoi has yet to bring up any such accusation against Khmer Krom monks. So far, the Khmer Krom monks have been accused by Hanoi of participation in demonstration which affects the order in society only (and not on separatism). Hanoi officials have requested the UN to prevent Khmer Krom people and Montagnard representatives from outside of Vietnam, from participating in the UN forum in New York city. The Sixth UN meeting which will focus on the issues of indigenous people, will last for 11 days, from 14 to 25 May, and will be participated by about 2,500 people from all over the world. Nguyen Tan Than, the deputy representative of the Vietnamese mission at the UN, accuses the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and the Montagnard Foundation of involvement in separatism in Vietnam. The Vietnamese official made a declaration on 18 May, in front of the Sixth Session UN Permanent Forum II (UNPFII) on indigenous people, in which he accused the separatist action (allegedly taken by the KKF and the Montagnard Foundation) of publishing false information against the Vietnamese government. The KKF group and the Montagnard Foundaton have yet to officially provide their reactions at the UN forum which is participated by about 2,500 people. A KKF representative said that his turn to provide his declaration at the UN forum will take place on Monday 21 May. Thach Ngoc Thach, the KKF representative, told RFA from New York City that Vietnam has no right whatsoever to prevent any organization as it wants to do. Thach Ngoc Thach said: “The Vietnamese government has no authority and no right to request the UN and the conference committee to ban any representatives of indigenous people from the forum…” The Sixth Session of UNPFII (UN Permanent Forum II) is taking place shortly after the defrocking of several Khmer Krom monks, and the recent jailing of 5 Khmer Krom monks who demonstrated against Hanoi’s authority. Earlier this week, Khieu Kanharith, the Cambodian government spokesman, declared that there was pressure for the Cambodian government to help intervene in the Khmer Krom monks case, but he said that the Phnom Penh regime cannot help since the Khmer Krom monks are involved with a movement of Khmer Kampuchea Krom government in the US. Khieu Kanharith said: “… It cannot be like this, this is tantamount to secessionism, therefore, these accusations (made by Khmer Krom organizations) we received documents that are opposite to them, and we believe that the documents we received are true…” The KKF representative who plans to clarify the case at the UN forum declared that Khmer Krom monks are not involved in the accusation leveled against them (by the Phnom Penh regime). “We regret that he (Khieu Kanharith) did not conduct proper research, even though he is the Minister of Information himself…,” Thach Ngoc Thach said. Thach Ngoc Thach added that the accusations by the Cambodian government spokesman came out even before Hanoi has yet to bring up any such accusation against Khmer Krom monks. So far, the Khmer Krom monks have been accused by Hanoi of participation in demonstration which affects the order in society only (and not on separatism).

Government official rejects call by Khmer Krom people

18 May 2007 By Kessor Raniya – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy Khieu Kanharith, the government spokesman, rejects the call made by Khmer Krom communities both inside and outside of Cambodia. The call asks the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to help resolve the issue of the recent defrocking and jailing of Khmer Krom monks by the Vietnamese authorities. Khieu Kanharith, who is also Minister of Information, accused the Khmer Krom monks of being involved with Kampuchea Krom liberation movement to create an illegal secession zone. Khieu Kanharith said: “They (the Viets) arrest these monks because they participate with the movement of Khmer Kampuchea Krom government in the US, and (furthermore, it involves) a country (Vietnam) that has an embassy with us, so we do not support such action (by the Khmer Krom monks). This is secessionism.” In response to Khieu Kanharith’s (wild assertion), Monk Thach Bin, the planning aid official of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) in the world, rejects this accusation, saying that it is not true. Monk Thach Bin said: “The KKF has no intention of ordering the creation of a secession zone. If there is (any such intention) of creating a secession zone, why would the executive committee of the KKF work so hard to call on UNPO to help find justice for us.” Regarding the request for intervention from the RGC by the Khmer Krom monks, Heng Samrin also rejected this request, saying that this is an internal issue of Vietnam, and that Cambodia must not interfere with it.

Opposition MP demands that Vietnam examine the Khmer Krom issue

16 May 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy The chairman of Committee No. 5 of the National Assembly plans to send a letter, this Thursday, demanding that the secretary-general of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and the Cambodian authority re-examine the problems faced by Khmer Krom monks. Son Chhay, chairman of Committee No. 5 in charge of foreign affairs at the National Assembly, declared that the actions taken by the Vietnamese authority constitute a serious violation on the religious rights of native people (of Kampuchea Krom). Son Chhay said: “If we compare the actions taken by Vietnam to protect the Vietnamese people who come to live in Cambodia, Vietnam is following and defending (its people) on a daily basis. But for us, Cambodians who are the native people, the owners of the lands of Kampuchea Krom, and who are the victims, we (the Cambodian government) are ignoring them (Khmer Krom), this is something that (my) committee must keep on reminding. Secondly, we will send a letter to the secretary-general of the CPV asking him to examine this issue.” The plan for the demand by opposition MP Son Chhay took shape after a report indicated that 5 Khmer Krom monks were sentenced to 2 to 5-year jail last Saturday. The sentence was handed down because the monks have demonstrated to demand for religious freedom and religious worship (rights). Up to now, the Cambodian government has not reacted to this problem. Monk Bou Kry, the Buddhist patriarch of the Thammayut sect, said that he recognized that religious violations (took place), however, he said that there is nothing else that he can do besides praying for the Khmer Krom monks so they may find peace. Samdech Bou Kry said: “It (religious violation) did take place, this is not the first time that it is seen in Vietnam. I can only recite prayers, send the blessings to ask for peace, so that there is no clash between each others (Vietnamese authority, and Khmer Krom monks and people), so that they love each other, irrespective of whether one follow a religion or not, but in our name as human beings.” The incidents in Kampuchea Krom come at a time when the US commission issues its yearly report on international religious freedom. A copy of the report that RFA received in May indicated that Vietnam is still oppressing and threatening ethnic minorities [in Vietnam], and Vietnam still jails monks. In this report, in addition to showing the various violations perpetrated by Vietnam on numerous religions, detailed information was provided about the defrocking of Khmer Krom monks in Soc Trang province (Khleang province in Khmer). The US commission provides several recommendations to the US government which include among others: the demand to revisit aid package provided to Vietnam, and the increase of budget to support religions in Vietnam. US human rights activists plan to visit Khleang province next month, following the (jail) sentence handed down to Khmer Krom monks.

The US will send human rights activists to Kampuchea Krom

12 May 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata The USA plans to send human rights activists to Kheang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese), Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam), in the near future after it was reported that recent jail sentences were handed down to Khmer Krom monks. Following his meeting with US Senate and the US Committee in charge of Human Rights, Thach Ngoc Thach, the leader of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), said: “We met with the committee, it will send another delegation committee to Khleang province within 6 months, in order to meet with our monks and Khmer Krom people one more time, in order to obtain factual information on the sentence and the oppression perpetrated on Khmer Krom monks and population in Khleang province.” The meeting was urgently set up following the 2 to 4-year jail sentences handed down by the Vietnamese authority in Khleang province on Khmer Krom monks on 10 May. Khmer Krom monks were demanding for their religious freedom. Thach Ngoc Thach added that the US human rights office, and the US religious affair have supported the activities of Khmer Krom monks, and that KKF in the world is also pursuing this case with the European Union Parliament in order to obtain pressure on Vietnam. On the same day, about 10 associations of Khmer Krom people in Cambodia have issued a joint statement condemning the Vietnamese authority and called on the international community to review this case. Monk Yoeung Sin, President of the Khmer Krom monks Association, said: “Does the [Vietnamese] authority have the right to take such action against religious belief? Any country respecting human rights, and Vietnam, in particular, who adheres to the UN convention on human rights, and in whose constitution stipulates in Section 67-68, the respect of individual rights to religious freedom, and activities normally conducted by any human in the world, as a citizen of Vietnam.” At the beginning of February, several hundreds of Khmer Krom student-monks at the superior Pali school in Khleang province, held a demonstration against the Vietnamese authority which prevented them from leaving the pagoda to go beg for their daily alms. Later on, the Vietnamese authority arrested and defrocked several of the monks. Recently, 5 monks were sentenced to 2 to 4-year jail for creating disorder. In the upcoming 14-25 May 2007, a UN meeting for native people will also be organized. Khmer Krom leaders in the world claimed that they will raised during this meeting the issues of land grabbing from Khmer Krom people in Vietnam, and the oppression of Khmer Krom monks.