By Mao Sotheany Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata Orginally posted on KI Media Thach Ngoc Thach, President of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) in the world, reacted to the fact that the Vietnamese government did not allow Khmer Kampuchea Krom representatives to participate in the Visak Bochea (Visakha) celebration in Hanoi. Thach Ngoc Thach, President of the US-based KKF, expressed his reaction on Sunday to the fact that the Vietnamese government did not authorize Khmer Kampuchea Krom representatives to participate in the Visak Bochea celebration in Hanoi between 13 and 17 May. It is expected that 3,500 people from 80 countries will participate in this Buddhist celebration. Thach Ngoc Thach told RFA’s Mao Sotheany about the reason why Khmer Kampuchea Krom representative could participate in this celebration. Thach Ngoc Thach (KKF): This is different from the celebration in New York where several nations, including Khmer Krom people used to participate very year, and Khmer Krom monks always receive the honor to start the religious praying at the Untied Nations. However, this year, the (UN) celebration is held in Hanoi instead. A number of ethnic people do not have a country of their own, this is one issue. The second issue, for countries that do not have close relationship with the Vietnamese government, they are not allowed to participate in the celebration, unlike the previous years, therefore, these people did not receive an invitation. Furthermore, even Vietnamese Buddhists from overseas are not invited to attend the celebration either. Tibetan monks who always participated every year, this year, they were not invited either. Therefore, we see here a discrimination made through the invitation denial, Vietnam invited only who they please. Mao Sotheany (RFA): In your name as the KKF president in the US, what else will you do, because I am really puzzled that the UN could not intervene so that the KKF can participate. KKF: For this issue, we met with the Religious affair of the US Department of State two weeks ago already. We informed them, this is why we saw the US Department of State issuing a declaration, as well as the Human Rights Watch, in order to pressure the Vietnamese government, this is one thing. Secondly, we prepared a letter to send to (UN) religious affair department in Geneva, to inform them. Furthermore, we are cooperating with other nations, such as Buddhist Tibetans, overseas Vietnamese, to protest about this issue. Therefore, I foresee that there will be pushes made from all directions: one to push the UN to find a venue location where all Buddhists in the world can participate in. RFA: I want to ask you: what is the benefit of participating in the Visak Bochea celebration in Hanoi where a large number of Buddhists in the world cannot join in, what is its importance? KKF: First, this is very important for Buddhists. Secondly, the other importance is that we are protesting about the religious pressure imposed by the Vietnamese government on religious belief. At that occasion, we and the international committee will see clearly that the Vietnamese government action, based on (international) convention or based on its own declaration to allow freedom rights, in fact, the Vietnamese government only talked about them, but in reality, it is the opposite. There, the international community will clearly sees it. Another issue, is the fact that this is a Vietnamese government’s trick to hide itself by claiming that it is a country fully opened, that was why this International celebration is allowed to take place next week. I believe that, now, the International community and the UN, in particular, will clearly see the Vietnamese government treachery. I also received information from Kampuchea Krom that police officers are conducting surveillance in every pagoda because they are afraid that Khmer Krom and Vietnamese monks may demonstrate during this celebration in Hanoi next week. RFA: I want to ask you also about the Visak Bochea celebration, which earlier you said that it was held at the UN office in New York. Since when such celebration was held? KKF: I do not remember when it started, but the KKF participated in this celebration in the past 5 years. RFA: From the US, is there any group participating in this celebration in Hanoi? KKF: By what I understand, the US religion department asked to participate, but even for them, they were not invited either. Human Rights Watch also asked to join in, they were denied also, and Khmer Krom monks asked to join also, but we didn’t receive any invitation.