Appeal for “Khmer Krom Rights”

The Second Anniversary of peaceful demonstration for religion freedom in Kleang (renamed Soc Trang) province, Kampuchea krom. “A day of prayers – Khmer Krom Religious Rights Day on 8th of February, 2009” It is a sad reality but the Khmer Krom people continue to be systematically persecuted, detained, tortured and in the worse case killed because they express their political or religious views. Around this time, on the 8th February 2007, over two hundred Khmer Krom Buddhist monks organized a peaceful demonstration demanding religious freedom in Khleang (renamed Soc Trang) province. On 22nd February 2008, the Vietnamese authorities responded by detaining and defrocking nine Khmer Krom Buddhist monks.

  1. Ly Hoang, aged 22, from Wat Sam Rong, Khleang province.
  2. Ly Tang Thong, aged 23, from Wat Sam Rong, Khleang province.
  3. Ly Thanh Suoi, aged 28, from Wat Teok Praiy, Khleang province.
  4. Thach Xuan Hien, aged 21, from Wat Ta Meon, Khleang province.
  5. Tang Phien, aged 22, from Wat Ta Meon, Khleang province.
  6. Ly Suong, aged 21, from Wat Teok Praiy, Khleang province.
  7. Kim Muon, age 22, from Wat Ta Sek, Khleang province.
  8. Thach Thuong, aged 28, from Wat Teok Praiy, Khleang province.

On 10 May 2007, five defrocked Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks (Venerable Danh Tol, Venerable Kim Muol, Venerable Ly Suong, Venerable Ly Hoang, and Venerable Thach Thuong) were trialed at a Vietnamese court with no lawyers assigned to defend themselves. They were imprisoned for almost 2 years. Between 8th February 2007 to 10th May 2007, nineteen Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks in Tra Vinh and Soc Trang provinces in the Mekong Delta were arrested, defrocked and imprisoned for possessing human rights documents and/or for participating in a peaceful demonstration requesting religious freedom. In Cambodia, Ven. Eang Sok Theon was murdered after the peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. Venerable Tim Sakhorn, Head monk in Phnom Dinh, Takeo province was defrocked and sent to Kampuchea Krom. He was jailed against his will. In this coming date of February 08, 2008, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) would like to appeal a one day prayer entitled, “Khmer-Krom Religious Rights Day” to condemn the injustice actions of the Vietnamese authorities against peaceful monks and more importantly, remember our most respected Buddhist monks who put their lives on line to demand basic freedoms to express one’s religion and beliefs.

  • Khmer Krom Religious Rights Day is a nonviolent day of action around the world
  • Khmer Krom Religious Rights Day is a peaceful day to unit for freedom
  • Khmer Krom Religious Rights Day is a day to pray for peace

Please come together to pray for peace, freedom and strength and unity amongst us all to put an end to the suffering of our people. Sincerely, Thach N Thach

KKF Supports HRW report stating it is Appropriate and Accurate Not Fabricated

Below is a direct translation from RFA interview on 24/1/09. Click here to listen Ladies and gentlemen, the Vietnam government has rejected the human rights abuses of the Khmer Krom people as reported by the Human Rights Watch stating that it was fabricated. On Thursday, Mr. Le Dzung, Vietnam Foreign Minister Spokesman said that the Khmer Krom people who live in the Mekong Delta forms an integral part and cannot be separated from the all the ethnic communities. He adds that they received all the basic rights enshrined in the Vietnam Constitution. Back to Wednesday, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Vietnam has oppressed the Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta region. And that the Khmer Krom people are severely prohibited from accessing freedom of expression, association, news and others. Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach, President of the global Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation has stated his approval towards the Human Rights Watch report. “The HRW report with its 126 pages is appropriate and correct. It shows how the Vietnam government has conspired with the Cambodian government especially in the case of Venerable Tim Sakhorn. Cambodia police were used to defrock Ven. Tim Sakorn from Takeo province and imprison him in Vietnam.” “Another example is the defrocking of the five Khmer Krom Buddhist monks who only demanded freedom of religion so that they could control their own religion.” “The confiscation of lands by Vietnamese authorities is another example of violations such as in Moth Chrouk, Khleang and many more places including Preah Trapeang.” “The biggest issue of all is education. The Vietnam government does not allow the Khmer students to study abroad. They also force the Khmer students to wear the traditional clothes.” Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach also stated that reports from other governments also reinforce the appropriateness of the HRW report. “It is not only the HRW report; the European Parliament announced recently that Vietnam government must respect the basic rights of the Khmer Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom.” “You can see also that the US State Department on Religious Freedom visited Kampuchea-Krom directly to investigate the human rights violation committed by Vietnam towards the Khmer Krom.” “The Vietnamese citizens even approved the human rights violation committed by its communist government towards the Khmer Krom people.” We are unable to reach a representative from the Cambodian government to comment on the report and the alleged role it has in working together with the Vietnam government to suppress the rights of the Khmer Krom people.

KKF appeals to Governments, NGOs & Human Rights Organisation to Read HRW Publication

Office of the President 24 January 2009 On behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, we would like to acknowledge and encourage all Khmer, Khmer-Krom, human rights organisations and citizens of every country to purchase and/or read the latest publication released by the Human Rights Watch, entitled, On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. For centuries past, very few people knew the existence of the Khmer-Krom people and little to no documents have been written on the struggle of the Khmer-Krom people. The release of this book is the first of its kind to demonstrate the actual human rights situation in Kampuchea-Krom (Vietnam). It speaks of the culture of fear and total domination that continues to be fostered by the One Communist Party of the Vietnamese government. It also tells of the heart trenching situation of the Khmer-Krom refugees in Cambodia, caught between two hostile governments and rendered stateless because no one cares enough to accept their identity. The book shows the continue denial of the Vietnamese government to accept the harsh treatments of the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks by its own authorities and highlights the lack of any real commitment to foster a society of democracy where human rights activists could free thrive. The book contains comprehensive information about the struggle of the few Khmer-Krom human rights activist in Kampuchea-Krom and Cambodia as well as testimonies of dangerous situation that Khmer-Krom people found themselves under a society that cares little for its ethnic minorities. We hope that by reading this publication, more governments, academics, NGOs and citizens of the world will consider making the Khmer-Krom case a priority and extend a much needed helping hand to the Indigenous Peoples of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam, the Khmer-Krom people. We urge Vietnamese government to take full responsibility to stop violating the basic rights of the Khmer-Krom people and to allow them to live in peace as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, the UN Declaration on Human Rights, and especially the Vietnam constitution. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Human Rights Watch organisation for releasing this important document and for providing the fuel to keep the light burning for many Khmer and Khmer-Krom activists in their struggle for the basic fundamental freedoms and rights. Yours sincerely, Thach Ngoc Thach Email: thach.thach@khmerkrom.org

Vietnam: Halt Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Mekong Delta

Government Suppresses Peaceful Protests for Religious, Cultural, and Land Rights Published by Human Rights Watch Read report in Khmer (New York, January 21, 2009) – The Vietnamese government should immediately free Khmer Krom Buddhist monks and land rights activists in prison or under house arrest for the peaceful expression of their political and religious beliefs, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The Khmer Krom is a large ethnic group in the Mekong Delta that is central to Vietnam-Cambodia relations. The 125-page report, “On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta,” documents ongoing violations of the rights of the Khmer Krom in southern Vietnam and also abuses in Cambodia against Khmer Krom who have fled there for refuge. Wary about possible Khmer Krom nationalist aspirations, Vietnam has suppressed peaceful expressions of dissent and banned Khmer Krom human rights publications. It also tightly controls the Theravada Buddhism practiced by the Khmer Krom, who see this form of Buddhism as the foundation of their distinct culture and ethnic identity. “Vietnam’s response to peaceful protests provides a window into the severe and often shrouded methods it uses to stifle dissent,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should be trying to engage in dialogue with the Khmer Krom, rather than throwing them in jail.” Drawing on detailed interviews with witnesses in both Vietnam and Cambodia, the report shows that Khmer Krom in Vietnam face serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, information, and movement. In researching this report, Human Rights Watch came into possession of internal memos circulated by the Communist Party of Vietnam and Vietnamese government officials outlining their concerns about unrest among Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta and strategies to monitor, infiltrate, and silence Khmer Krom activists. The documents are included in an appendix to the report. “The official documents we publish today lay bare the efforts by the Vietnamese government to silence critics,” said Adams. “This is bare-knuckled, indefensible political repression.” “On the Margins” provides a rare, in-depth account of a protest conducted by 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist monks in Soc Trang province, Vietnam, in February 2007. Protesters called for greater religious freedom and more Khmer-language education. Although the protest was peaceful and lasted only a few hours, the Vietnamese government responded harshly. Police surrounded the pagodas of monks suspected of leading the protest. Local authorities and government-appointed Buddhist officials subsequently expelled at least 20 monks from the monkhood, forcing them to defrock and give up their monks’ robes, and banishing them from their pagodas. The authorities sent the monks back to their home villages and put them under house arrest or police detention, without issuing arrest warrants or specifying the charges against them. During interrogations, police beat some of the monks. In May 2007, the Soc Trang provincial court convicted five of the monks on charges of “disrupting traffic” and sentenced them to two to four years of imprisonment. Some of the monks were beaten during interrogation. After the demonstrations, the authorities instituted stricter surveillance of Khmer Krom activists, restricted and monitored their movements, banned their publications, and monitored their telephones. The report also examines rights abuses of Khmer Krom who have moved to Cambodia, where they remain among Cambodia’s most disenfranchised groups. Because they are often perceived as ethnic Vietnamese by Cambodians, many Khmer Krom in Cambodia face social and economic discrimination and unnecessary hurdles to legalizing their status. The Cambodian government has repeatedly stated that it considers the Khmer Krom to be Cambodian citizens. Yet the Cambodian authorities often react harshly when Khmer Krom become too critical of the Vietnamese government, a close ally of the Cambodian government. In 2007, Cambodian police forcefully dispersed a series of protests in Phnom Penh by Khmer Krom monks denouncing the rights abuses they had experienced in Vietnam. In February 2007, a Khmer Krom monk, Eang Sok Thoeun, was killed in suspicious circumstances after he participated in a protest in Phnom Penh. In June 2007, Cambodian authorities arrested, defrocked, and deported to Vietnam a Khmer Krom activist monk, Tim Sakhorn, who was sentenced in Vietnam to a year in prison. Human Rights Watch called on the Cambodian government to investigate thoroughly the killing of Eang Sok Thoeun, and on the Vietnamese government to allow Tim Sakhorn, placed under house arrest in Vietnam after his release from prison in May 2008, to return to his home in Cambodia if he chooses. “The killing, imprisonment, and defrocking of Khmer Krom monks sends a chilling message to Khmer Krom activists in both Cambodia and Vietnam,” said Adams. “An ethnic group that should enjoy the protection of two countries finds itself stripped of protection by both.”

Vietnam Urged to Respect Rights of Khmer Krom

By Heng Reaksmey, VOA Khmer Phnom Penh 21 January 2009 The US-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the Vietnamese government to immediately free Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks and land rights activists from prison or house arrest for their involvement in the “peaceful expression of their political and religious beliefs.” At least five Khmer Krom monks have been released from prison in recent months, but their movements have been restricted, according to the Cambodian organization the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community. Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, appealed to the United Nations and the European Union, as well as the new administration in the US, to take additional measures to pressure the Vietnamese government “to respect the rights” of Khmer Krom and other indigenous people. Ly Son was released Nov. 23, 2008; Kim Moeun, Danh Toan and Thach Thoeung were released Jan. 18; and Ly Hoang was released Tuesday, according to the group. However they have been “prohibited” from being reinstated as monks, despite official requests, the group said. Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams said such a release “doesn’t address the fundamental problem of the Vietnamese government continuing to jail people for peaceful expression of their religious or political views.” “The underlying problems faced by the Khmer Krom in Vietnam still remain,” he said. Human Righs Watch on Wednesday issued a full report on abuses of Khmer Krom, a minority group in Vietnam with cultural ties to Cambodia. “Wary about possible Khmer Krom nationalist aspirations, Vietnam has suppressed peaceful expressions of dissent and banned Khmer Krom human rights publications,” the group said in a statement. Vietnam Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.

On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta

Published by Human Rights Watch This report documents ongoing violations of the rights of the Khmer Krom in southern Vietnam and also abuses in Cambodia against Khmer Krom who have fled there for refuge. Wary about possible Khmer Krom nationalist aspirations, Vietnam has suppressed peaceful expressions of dissent and banned Khmer Krom human rights publications. It also tightly controls the Theravada Buddhism practiced by the Khmer Krom, who see this form of Buddhism as the foundation of their distinct culture and ethnic identity. Download report in PDF Download report with full cover Map of Mekong Delta Region Provinces, Vietnam I. Summary The crackdown in Vietnam Cambodia’s repression of Khmer Krom activists Key recommendations Methodology II. Background Nationalist movements Engaged Buddhism After reunification Landlessness Poverty Discrimination High illiteracy and school drop-out rates III. Crackdown on Protests in the Mekong Delta Pressure on Buddhist activists in Tra Vinh The 2007 Buddhist protest in Soc Trang IV. Other Rights Problems Faced by Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam Suppression of land rights protests Restrictions on religious freedom Restrictions on freedom of movement Restrictions on freedom of expression Statelessness V. Cambodia Cracks Down on Khmer Krom Activists Attacks on freedom of assembly Discrimination against Khmer Krom Monks in Cambodia Restrictions on travel, association, and expression The defrocking and arrest of Tim Sakhorn Cross-border collaboration in suppression of Khmer Krom Citizens, migrants, or refugees? VI. Recommendations To the Socialist Republic of Vietnam To the Cambodian government To UNHCR To Japan, the European Union, United States, and other key donor states to Vietnam and Cambodia Acknowledgments Appendix A: Indictment of the Five Monks Appendix B: Handwritten Appeals from Khmer Krom in Vietnam Appendix C: Vietnamese State Press Coverage, Tim Sakhorn Appendix D: Letter from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Norodom Sihanouk Regarding Tim Sakhorn Appendix E: Human Rights Watch Letter to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Appendix F: Vietnamese Embassy’s Response to Human Rights Watch106

The Story of a Great Family Man and a True Khmer Krom at Heart

On 13 October 2008, the Khmer Krom community in Washington State lost a well respected and beloved man by the name of Mr. Lam Vong. He was a legend in his own right, achieving many great accomplishments and a true Khmer Krom at heart. Please read below the struggles and triumphant of his great man as written by his son, Mr. Nop Lam. Our father, Mr. Vong Lam, was a simple man who strived for a brighter future for his family, and in his spare time dedicated himself for the better of Khmer Krom community and the future of Khmer Krom. He was a great father, husband, and grandfather. He was born and raised in Khleang, a province in the Indochina region now known as Soc Trang, Vietnam. At the age of sixteen, he became a monk, as a part of the Khmer tradition. During his days as a monk, he would help educate the village children and also sought wisdom himself. His strong belief in the ways of Buddhism helped him evolve into a very wise young man. After approximately five years at the temple, he was arranged to be married to our mom, Mrs. On Thach. Together as a family we were farmers, our parents utilized the knowledge they do have to put food on the table. We were poor to say the least, but were more fortunate then some. Whatever produce they could grow, they grew for us to keep us alive. Through this hardship in his life after many years, laborious work, he saw the only opportunity for a better future ahead and that was to come to America. He was tired of the oppression from the government and the lack of opportunity for his family. He left Vietnam with his family in 1989. In the family he had his wife, mother-in-law, and six children. He faced many obstacles along the way. He flew to the Philippines and stayed at the refugee camp for approximately six months or so. Afterwards, the family flew to America, to a city called Tacoma with the help of Mr. Thach Thom. After we settled in, our parents continued to help their fellow villagers by providing a temporary shelter for immigrants who had just arrived in the US. Our parents continued to work hard, seven days a week, to save money to purchase a house. Only about five years later, they were able to purchase a new home and already had a few vehicles. Along with some of their success comes some free time. In this free time, though it is hard to come by, he managed to get involved with the process of forming a gathering place for Khmer Krom. With the help and dedications of many other great Khmer Krom, well respected men and women, came the forming of Watt Chantarangsey. To this day, Watt Chantarangsey remains the hub of all Khmer Krom people, a place where the people in the state of Washington can worship as they wish every day. Likewise, he was not just the president of the Temple, he was also involved with the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF). His dedication grew more and more as each day goes by, but he also understand he has a family to look after too. A tragic event happened to our beloved father on Oct. 13, 2008. He went missing. All the family members, and many of our uncles and aunts went out to search for him but he could not be found. His body was later found by the authorities two long nights and three long days later.

The days followed were filled with sadness and despair for us all over the loss of a Mr. Vong Lam on Oct. 13, 2008. His character has been always to strive for the better, not just the better for himself, and his family, but also for the better of Khmer Krom people. His legacy might just be a small prelude for what is to come in the future for Khmer Krom, but his dedication to better Khmer Krom is a definite acknowledge through most of Khmer Krom community around the place he grew up as a kid. We never got the chance to see his full capability as the person that he is, but we were able to experience some of his accomplishments. A simple man he was, but without his presence now the family lost their father, husband, and grandfather and a great fellow Khmer Krom. Please click play to see a video dedication to Mr. Lam Vong:
Special thanks to Mr. Nop for his contribution to this article and we would like to express our sincere condolences to his family for the lost of this wonderful man. Your father’s accomplishments and dedication will be remembered in the history and struggle of Khmer Krom for many years to come.

KKF Congratulates President-Elect Obama

Dear President-Elect Obama: Five more days will be the most important and historical day for the American to celebrate your inauguration to become the 44th President of the United States of the America. I, on behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation representing the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples of the Mekong Delta (South Vietnam) and Khmer-Krom diasporas around the world, would like to express our sincere congratulations on being elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. I am confident with your depth of diplomatic work experiences and strong leadership, that you will help us to overcome the financial crisis and also bring peace and prosperities to America and the world. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you about our people: Khmer-Krom. The Khmer-Krom people are the Indigenous Peoples of the southern Vietnam (Kampuchea-Krom). Most of them live in the Mekong Delta. Living under the control of the Vietnamese Communist (VC) government, the Khmer-Krom people have suffered tremendous human rights violations, confiscation of ancestral lands, and economic and social deprivations. They are not allowed to freely learn their own language and history in public schools or to freely practice their Theravada Buddhism without the interference of the VC government. I know that you will be busy with many challenges including two wars and a tanking economy when you take office on January 20, 2009. Like the millions of Americans who entrusted your capability and responsibility, I am sure that you and your new cabinet can do it as you said: “Yes We Can”. I also believe that you will stand and support all peoples, including the Khmer-Krom, who “seek for peace and security”. With your new leadership at the White House, I hope that you will help to pass the H.R. 3096: Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007. With the grace of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, may you always be a cultivator of longevity, riches, glory, fame, strength, and comfort. May all your illnesses, fears, perils, dangers, bad omens and misfortunes be destroyed. Respectfully Yours Thach Ngoc Thach President of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation

Protests planned by Khmer Krom

Written by Neth Pheaktra Posted by The Phnom Penh Post Monday, 12 January 2009 KHMER Krom ethnic minority members are planning demonstrations in Cambodia and Vietnam to protest against the detention of former monk Tim Sakhorn by Vietnamese authorities, activists said Sunday. Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association’s chief executive, Ang Chanrith, said the demonstration would be held in the near future but declined to give a date. Yoeung Sin of the Khmer Krom Monks Association said he will join the protest, claiming the detention was a violation of human rights. Both activists said they weren’t afraid to demonstrate, but will seek permission from the Interior Ministry for the rally.

Lawyer helps genocide victims

Thursday January 8, 2009 Posted on TODAYonline By ESTHER NG estherng@mediacorp.com.sg WHEN Singaporean lawyer Mahdev Mohan went to Cambodia to interview victims of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, he wanted to get away from two places with terrible memories for them — Tuol Sleng, the infamous torture site-turned-museum, and the Phnom Penh Court. So, he suggested the Bodhi Restaurant. But soon after they walked in, Chum Mey, 72, and Bou Meng, 78, appeared “visibly shaken”. To Mr Mahdev’s dismay, it turned out to be the place where the two survivors had been first tortured. “It was then I realised you can’t run away from the gruesome past, it’s everywhere,” said the 30-year-old Singaporean lawyer, who is the first non-Cambodian legal eagle in Asia appointed as legal counsel to victims of the brutal regime. Evidence given by the survivors will be used in the long-overdue war crime trials of five senior Khmer Rouge leaders, which are expected to begin in July. Chum Mey and Bou Meng are two of the seven survivors of Tuol Sleng. From 1975 to 1979, an estimated 17,000 people were imprisoned there; they were repeatedly tortured and coerced into naming family members and close associates. It struck Mr Mahdev “how fresh the wounds were, and how clearly these victims remembered how the Khmer Rouge tortured and killed their family members”. It was his desire to “give a voice to these people” that spurred him to quit his job as a criminal and litigation lawyer at Drew and Napier, where he had worked for three years. He joined the Singapore Management University as a law lecturer and, with his ex-journalist wife, set up a non-government organisation, Access to Justice Asia (AJA), last October to represent Cambodian minorities — mainly the Khmer Krom — in the tribunal hearings. Atrocities committed against the Khmer Krom had included the internment of 10,000 in Kraing Ta Chan prison. “There were no known survivors,” he said. One challenge Mr Mahdev faced was getting the survivors to trust him and open up. “You can’t approach them as a lawyer, you’ve got to talk to them like you’re talking to your relative (so that they are) comfortable enough to tell you their story, and trust you to tell it in court.” And then, there is the hard task of explaining the long road ahead — why the five hated leaders accused of such terrible war crimes must have defence lawyers, what a fair trial means, and how, at the end of the day, the survivors will not get any monetary reparations. Even as the Mohans fly off to the United States today — where Mr Mahdev will complete his Masters of Laws at Stanford Law School on a Fulbright Scholarship — they will continue their preparations for the hearings, which include interviewing close to 100 Khmer Krom victims. “We’ll be in touch with some of our AJA members on the ground.” Mr Mahdev’s interest was stoked during a holiday in Cambodia in 2006. The next year, he stayed there for six months doing volunteer work and later quit his job and set up AJA. “It’s just amazing that two hours away, there’s this amazing process going on where people need qualified lawyers — this is what attracted me to be part of it.” But it was his father, criminal lawyer and law professor S Chandra Mohan, who inspired his interest in criminal and human rights law in the first place. “In Singapore, there is the impression that the scope of criminal law is limited. It’s not true, there is a lot of scope to make a difference in Singapore and internationally,” he said, citing two ongoing war crimes tribunals, the other being in Timor Leste.