The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Sereivuth Prak P.O.Box 193 Pennsauken, NJ 08110 Phone: 562-209-1790 Pennsauken, NJ – January 19, 2010 – Prior to April 1975, people around the world knew about the Vietnam War. Today, people know about the fertile land of the Mekong Delta that helps Vietnam to be ranked as the second leading exporter of rice in the world. However, there are very few people who know the true history of the Mekong Delta and its surrounding regions. Therefore, people don’t know about the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples. The Khmer-Krom are the indigenous peoples of Kampuchea-Krom. Kampuchea-Krom means “Cambodia Below” or “South Cambodia”. Kampuchea-Krom was the southernmost territory of the Khmer Empire. The territory was renamed Cochinchina during the French colonization of Indochina. After the French government illegally transferred its colony, Cochinchina, to Vietnam on June 4, 1949, without the plebiscite or the consent of the Khmer-Krom, Cochinchina (Kampuchea-Krom) became lower half of the Republic of South Vietnam. Since April 30, 1975, Kampuchea-Krom has been known as the Southern part of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Living under the control of the Vietnamese government, the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples have suffered tremendous human rights violations, confiscation of ancestral lands, and economic and social deprivations. The Indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples are not allowed to learn their own language and history in public schools or to freely practice their Theravada Buddhism without the interference of the Vietnamese government. As an effort to bring awareness of the voiceless Khmer-Krom in Kampuchea-Krom to the world, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) is proud to present this book about the Khmer-Krom, entitled “The Khmer-Krom Journey to Self-Determination”. This is the first time this subject has been presented in this level of detail in the English language. This book contains material produced by the KKF reflecting the true accounts of the Khmer-Krom regarding their history, culture, religion, and land. This information was produce by the combined efforts of KKF contributors, living in Kampuchea-Krom and from countries around the world. This book also consists of a collection of articles and essays about the Khmer-Krom that are written by academics and Human Rights advocates. In his review of this book, Madev Mohan, the International Law representing Khmer-Krom Survivors at Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Tribunal) wrote, “this book should be read by all activists, scholars, jurists and policy makers in the fields of international development and humanitarianism with a view to identifying fresh measures to preserve the Khmer Krom social memory and culture, protect the human rights of the Khmer Krom people and, importantly, tell the Khmer Krom story.”

The Nonviolent Movement toward Khmer-Krom Self-Determination is an Affirmative Hope

At the year-end meeting of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) from 12-13 December 2009 in San Jose, California, Mr. To Kim Thong, KKF Chairman, had an interview with the Preynokor News regarding to the roadmap that the KKF has been advocating to seek for the right to self-determination for the indigenous Khmer-Krom people as follows: Son Socheat: What are the main reasons of the KKF’s annual year-end meeting? To Kim Thong: The KKF has its members all over the world. It is necessary to have a year-end meeting to discuss about the activities that KKF had done for a year. The year-end meeting provides the opportunity for the KKF leaders around the world to share ideas and experiences. It is also a chance for KKF leaders to re-evaluate its objectives and plans to execute them more effectively in the coming years. Son Socheat: Do you think that the Khmer-Krom could achieve the right to self-determination or not? And why so? To Kim Thong: This is a good question and I believe that there are many other people asking the same. My answer to the first part of your question is simply: Yes. As to the question why, it takes a little more time for reasoning. First of all, we should know what self-determination means. This phrase has become a topic inspiring the writers to write poems and motivating the nationalists to sacrifice their lives in exchange for the rights of their people. Originally, the word self-determination had been initiated by American President Woodrow Wilson and Soviet Union leader Vladimir llyich Lenin and others in Versailles after World War I. Mr. Ho Chi Minh used the principle of this theory to demand the independence from French colonizer. East Timor and Kosovo that recently gained independence also followed the principle of the self-determination. On Thursday, September 13, 2007, the General Assembly, by a majority of 144 states including Vietnam, adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The third article of this declaration clearly states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” The possible result of an exercise of self-determination would be in three different options: 1/ Indigenous peoples live peacefully under the governing of the colonial authorities, but the colonial authorities have to respect the human rights, justice and dignity of the indigenous peoples. The model of this form is similar status of the Native American in the United States. 2/ Indigenous peoples have their own autonomy government, but it is under the umbrella of the Federation or Union states. The model of this form is similar to the status of Nunavut in Northern Canada. 3/ Indigenous peoples have their own independent country. The model of this form is similar to the situation of Kosovo in Yugoslavia and East Timor in Indonesia. The KKF’s vision on self-determination is to focus on the sovereignty. To simply put, Khmer-Krom must have freedom to build their own society on their territory without being forced, ordered, or pressured from Vietnam. The history has clearly proved that the Khmer-Krom is the owner of this land for thousand years. It was not as the Vietnamese wants us to believe that the land was theirs since their ancestors started encroaching and gradually controlling the wilderness in the 17th century. As rightful owner of our home, we must have the rights to maintain or arrange things around our home the way we wish. As for how to do that, it depends on situations. We strongly believe that our peaceful movement will succeed because the truths are on our side. These truths are: (a) the tradition of relentless struggle of the Khmer-Krom people, (b) our entitlement to the land of the Kampuchea-Krom,(c) the advocacy of the International Laws and Conventions, especially the UNDRIP, and (d) it is the best interest of the Vietnamese people to have a peaceful, developed, mutual respect, and true friendship with the Khmer-Krom people. Son Socheat: What are the achievements of the KKF’s nonviolent movement for the Khmer- Krom who currently live in our homeland and abroad? To Kim Thong: The KKF’s nonviolent movement has gained many benefits for the Khmer- Krom people who live in our homeland and overseas, such as: 1/ We have reminded the Vietnamese government that regardless what tactics it has used to eliminate our Khmer race from our ancestral land, the Khmer-Krom who is the children of the Angkor builders, will never stop fighting to keep our identity alive. Therefore, the Vietnamese government has to soften its ethnic policies toward Khmer-Krom. 2/ We have brought awareness to the international community about who the Khmer-Krom is, and we have gained the support from many foreigners. Now, the Vietnamese government cannot arrest or imprison Khmer-Krom without a legitimate reason or to arbitrarily kill them as they did in the past. We have the international community to help defending our people all the time. 3/ We have successfully made the Vietnamese government to face the truth and forced it to reluctantly pay attention to the well-being of the Khmer-Krom people; for example building houses and giving some money to the poor. Looking back, we would clearly see the good outcomes for what we have done. The Vietnamese government hoped that their plan for eliminating the Khmer-Krom race would be completed by 1975. They hoped that Khmer-Krom identity would become “Dong Bao Dan Toc” and Angkor Watt temple to become “De Thien De Thich”. What the Vietnamese government could not imagine was that the falling of international communist regimes and the formidable resistances of Khmer-Krom people to keep their identity that make Hanoi government fail to implement its ethnic cleansing policy. Son Socheat: Does KKF have any support from other governments, countries or international organizations? To Kim Thong: The UN DRIP and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are indications that the demanding of the right to self-determination of the indigenous peoples has enough legitimate support from the signatory countries. Last year, the declaration of European parliamentary and the reports of Human Right Watch condemned the Vietnamese government committed human right violations against Khmer-Krom. KKF has also made close relationship with the donors and investment countries in Vietnam. Moreover, KKF also has the international law experts, the historians, the researchers, and the volunteers as the consultants and the advisors. Many people from Italy, England, Singapore and the United States of America, etc have collaborated with us to publish a book for more than 300 pages that confirm the sovereignty of the Khmer-Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom. Son Socheat: What are the plans of the KKF in 2010? To Kim Thong: The plans for 2010 focus on the visions called “Long March forward to the Motherland”. It outlines the things we would do on the international stage, in Cambodia, and in Kampuchea-Krom. Son Socheat: On behalf of the Preynokor News, I would like to thank for your valuable time to have an interview with us today and clearly explain the KKF’s vision regarding the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples in Kampuchea-Krom.