By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer Original report from Washington 11 June 2009 Listen to report Worldwide members of the Khmer ethnic group from southern Vietnam will meet in Paris on Saturday to mark the loss of territory from Cambodia to Vietnam in the colonial period and push for greater freedoms under Vietnamese authorities. Maggie Murphy, project coordinator for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization and one of the organizers for the weekend conference, said that 60 years after Khmers lost the land, they are now living in poor conditions, with few rights. “There is a lot of oppression,” she told VOA Khmer from her group’s office in the Hague. “There is a lack of ability to express one’s religious freedom, and the socio-economic situation of the Khmer Krom is not what it should be. It is far below that of the ethnic Vietnamese.” Participants of Saturday’s conference will include French authorities, the secretary-general of Murphy’s organization and an Italian member of the European Parliament. Kampuchea Krom was awarded by the French to Vietnam on June 4, 1949, when the countries were part of Indochina, a partitioning that nettles many Cambodians today and is a focal point for nationalistic rhetoric. Millions of Khmer Krom now live without freedom of expression or religion, according to the US-based Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation. Vietnamese authorities impose restrictions on all forms of protest. Recently, they arrested a Khmer monk for hostile acts against good relations between Cambodia and Vietnam. “In the future, the main purpose of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation is to properly prepare legal work to demand more [work against] human rights violations by the Vietnamese authorities,” Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the federation, told VOA Khmer by phone. “Our purpose is to move toward in what we call a journey toward self determination.”
By Men Kimseng, VOA Khmer Original report from Washington 10 June 2009 Listen to report Calls for freedom and more unity among Khmer Kampuchea Krom have become the main demand during gatherings worldwide to mark the 60th anniversary of the loss of Kampuchea Krom (lower Cambodia now part of Southern Vietnam). Sunday’s meeting in New Jersey is another call to reiterate Khmer Kampuchea Krom’s commitment to fight for self-determination. “Today is a historical day to commemorate bitter experience and to try to stop colony on Khmer Krom. This is our primary call,” Ven. Thach Berong, head monk in charge of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation’s inter-religious affairs and one of the organizers of the gathering, told VOA Khmer by phone. Ven. Thach Berong added that more than 100 activists coming from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and Washington D.C. will get together to show their “unity to the national and international community that Khmer Krom are committed to stop any ambition to annex more Cambodian land by foreign forces”. “We are devoted to protecting our national soul, safeguarding Khmer culture and civilization, and ensuring that Khmer Krom people have rights to self-determination,” said Ven. Thach Berong. The commemoration is also attended by a visiting president of the Human Rights Party from Cambodia. “The difficulty of the Khmer Krom people is those of mine because I am also Khmer,” Kem Sokha, president of the Human Rights Party told VOA Khmer for his decision to attend the gathering. French colonist awarded Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam on 4 June 1949. Currently many Khmer Krom people are living in sheer poverty. Soures: http://www.voanews.com/khmer/2009-06-10-voa2.cfm
Click here to download the latest report by the USCIRF Below is an extract from report regarding to Khmer Krom issues: The Vietnamese government‘s ongoing repression of the language, culture, and religion of ethnic Khmer living in Vietnam has led to growing resentment. Khmer Buddhism is associated with Theravada branch of Buddhism and has religious and ethnic traditions distinct from the dominant Mahayana Buddhist tradition practiced in most places of Vietnam. Some Khmer Buddhists have called for a separate religious organization, distinct from the government-approved Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha (VBS). Religious freedom concerns continue to be central to demands of ethnic minority Khmer for human rights protections and preservation of their unique language and culture. There are as many as one million ethnic minority Khmer Buddhists in Vietnam, centered in the Mekong Delta region. Long simmering tensions emerged there in 2006 and 2007, as Khmer Buddhist monks peacefully started to protest government restrictions on their freedom of religion and movement and Khmer language training. On January 19, 2007, according to Human Rights Watch, Buddhist monks in Tra Vinh province protested the arrest of a monk for possessing a publication from an overseas Khmer advocacy group. The protesting monks were interrogated and accused of allegedly separatist activities, and three monks were detained in their pagodas for three months and later defrocked. In February 2007, more than 200 monks staged a peaceful demonstration in Soc Trang province protesting the government‘s restriction on the number of days allowed for certain Khmer religious festivals and calling on the government to allow Khmer Buddhist leaders—not government appointees—to make decisions regarding the ordinations of monks and the content of religious studies at pagoda schools. The protestors also called for more education in Khmer language and culture. Provincial officials initially promised to address the monk‘s concerns, but several days later, monks suspected of leading the protest were arrested and some reportedly beaten during interrogations. At least 20 monks were defrocked and expelled from their pagodas, and five monks sentenced to between two and four years in prison. Defrocked monks were sent home to their villages were they were placed under house arrest or police detention. As mentioned above, in January 2009, the five Khmer monks were released from prison, but they were not allowed to return to the monkhood. After the 2007 demonstrations in Tra Vinh and Soc Trang, provincial officials and police expanded surveillance and restrictions on Khmer Buddhists religious activity and pressured Khmer Buddhist leaders to identify and defrock monks critical of the government. In July 2007, the Vietnamese government arrested Tim Sarkhorn, a Cambodian Khmer Buddhist monk on charges of ―illegally crossing the border.‖ Sarkhorn was released in November 2008 but placed under house arrest. He has since reportedly been allowed to return to Cambodia and is seeking asylum.
On May 30, 2009, at 11pm (local time), the Vietnamese police, led by Duong Thanh Hung from Soc Trang Province went to arrest Mr. Huynh Ba (born in 1962) and his wife, Mrs Son Thi Kim Thu (born in 1962) while they were visiting their god-father at Ba Trai Commune, Binh An Village, Kien Luong District, Kien Giang Province. The police did not give a reason to why they had arrested Mr. Huynh Ba and his wife. The police released Mrs Son Thi Kim Thu, but Mr. Huynh Ba is still being imprisoned at an unknown location. The current fate of Mr. Huynh Ba remains unknown. Mr. Huynh Ba has filed complaint to demand the Vietnamese government to return his confiscated farmland. He lead many peaceful demonstrations of Khmer-Krom farmers to demand the return of their confiscated farmlands in Soc Trang Province. Instead of returning this farmland, the Vietnamese government accused him of leading the protests to disturb the Vietnamese society. This is the first time that the Vietnamese police arrested him for more than 24 hours with an unknown accusation. His wife was not allowed to visit him. In this regards, I would like to urgently appeal for your intervention to: • Write a letter to the Vietnamese government asking to release Mr. Huynh Ba without any conditions. • Urge Vietnam to respect the Human Rights of the Khmer-Krom people, especially the right to own their ancestral lands. Since Vietnam signed the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007, it should show respect and implement the Article 26 of the Declaration “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.” Thanks for your help in advance. Respectfully Yours, Thach Ngoc Thach President of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation CC: Foreign Embassies and UN Human Rights Agencies in Vietnam Related link: Vietnam Authority Arrests Land Activist Huynh Ba