The term Education should not limited to the Vietnamese language rather; it should include the languages of the indigenous peoples as well. In most instances, the Vietnamese government has prohibited school and temples from teaching the Khmer language, culture, history and tradition. While such acts may ensure the successful integration of the indigenous peoples and other minorities into the Vietnamese mainstream society, it erodes and violates the rights of indigenous peoples to preserve their unique identity and culture. In the heavily Khmer populated areas of Preah Trapeang [renamed Tra Vinh], only 10% of the Khmer-Krom people have a high school or higher education qualification. Over 70% of the Khmer-Krom women and men have no schooling. These figures are similar in all other provinces such as Khleang [Soc Trang], An Giang and Pol Leav [Bac Lieu]. This is a clear violation of this article. This lack of educational support and structure has meant that Khmer-Krom women are limited to becoming only farmers and peasants. No encouragement or initiatives exist to help young Khmer-Krom women obtain higher education or improve employment. Those who finish high school are faced with a lack of job opportunities and are often limited to working as farmers or teachers. Others have been forced to work in under paid jobs, working as servants to wealthy Vietnamese people, while thousands of Khmer-Krom girls have been falsely lured into trafficking. The State of Viet Nam must implement programs and initiatives to encourage the further development of the indigenous women by offering more scholarships for higher education abroad as well as opening English study centers to maximize their employment opportunities at the local, national and international level. Khmer youth and women must be provided equal access to education.
1. (a) All Khmer-Krom women should be able to work in their chosen field without preferential treatment or discrimination. Khmer-Krom women with parents who served against the current government should not be discriminated against for obtaining government positions. (b) Policies should be implemented to ensure that Khmer-Krom women are not discriminated against in the selection process of employment because of their distinctive culture. (c) This right must be implemented to ensure that indigenous women are treated equal and obtain the same opportunities as the majority of the ethnic Vietnamese women. (d) This right must be incorporated in other areas of employments including teaching at elementary and high school. (e)The right to health protection and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction. 2. Unfortunately for many of the Khmer-Krom women such rights are non existent. Even if there are policies that exist for government employees, many private employed servants have no protection against the discrimination on the grounds of marriage or maternity and to ensure their effective right to work.
The Khmer Krom women living in the heavily populated areas of Khleang [renamed Soc Trang], Preah Treapeang [Tra Vinh], Moth Chrouk [An Giang] and Prek Reksey [Can Tho] are limited in accessing health facilities. Of particular concern is the lack of health facilities for Khmer Krom mothers giving birth to new born babies. In the province of Khleang, reports have revealed pregnant mothers having to wait outside of clinics and although delivery services are free, once the baby are born, they are forced to recover outside of the clinic. Already poor, many new mothers have no access to initiatives or programs to help them with the new born baby and are forced to fend for themselves. Many poor pregnant mothers are also missing vital nutrition due to their state of poverty. The Vietnamese government must increase funding into the Mekong Delta region to sustain new mothers; especially indigenous mothers who are most vulnerable at this stage by providing free and accessible health care facilities, medication and nutrients as well as regular check up to protect the well being of both mother and child.
The State of Viet Nam should take into account policies which target the most vulnerable group of women especially indigenous women living in the Mekong Delta region such as the Khmer-Krom women. In particular, it should pay closer attention to ensuring that they have the same rights as men as well as other ethnic Vietnamese women including the rights to family benefits. (b) There are increasing reports inland of Khmer-Krom women and family being forced to sell their properties due to the high interest rates imposed by the banks of Viet Nam. Grants should be given to such vulnerable groups as initiatives to improve their livelihood and given a fair chance for life and opportunities. (c) The culture of the Khmer-Krom people is distinctively different to that of Vietnamese people. Followers of Buddhism, many Khmer-Krom women and families have been forced to change their cultural customs as required by the Vietnamese authorities. In some cases, wearing their cultural attire during traditional ceremonies has been prohibited. In other cases, traditional ceremonies have been prohibited to one day only as opposed to daily practices.
This article attaches a great importance for the millions of Khmer-Krom people, women and children living in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam as over 90% of them live in the rural or provincial region. For centuries, rice farming has been at the core of the Khmer-Krom livelihood and to this day, the large majority of Khmer-Krom people are farmers. As for the Khmer-Krom women, they play a vital role in the survival of the Khmer-Krom culture and identity. Upholding a diverse role from being a mother or wife, it can be generally agreed that they play a significant role in the family and society as a whole. However, many of the Khmer-Krom women have been subjected to untold horror and misery under the current regime. It’s hardly surprising that many of the Khmer-Krom women have no access to any form of social security programs, often isolated from mainstream society because of their poverty state and lack of education. Widowed mothers with children have been forced to fend for themselves and have relied on the goodwill of the Khmer-Krom communities to help survive each passing day. We would like to bring to your attention Part 2(b) of this article which states that all women should have access to adequate health care facilities. In 2004, during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Third Session, we first brought up the case of over 2000 Khmer-Krom people blinded by some unknown phenomenon. We appealed to the UN and the Viet Nam government to investigate and help these unfortunate people. Now, it is the year 2007 and no acknowledgement or support has been received from the Vietnamese government. Out of the 2000 affected Khmer Krom, many Khmer-Krom women and children as young as five has been blinded (see appendix 1 for examples). Today, we would like to appeal once again to the CEDAW Committee and the Vietnamese government to do something about these cases concerning access to health care services. d) As majority of indigenous Khmer-Krom people including the Khmer-Krom women are farmers, the Vietnamese government should provide opportunities and initiatives for them to learn about the latest technology in farming so they could maximize their livelihood, thereby helping to alleviate the poverty rates. The government should welcome UN specialized agencies, programs and funds with expertise to assist such as the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO). e) All Khmer-Krom women should have the right to participate in community events without fear or discrimination because of their indigenous origin or cultural and religious beliefs. f) While we acknowledge the Vietnamese government in providing shelter for the poor and homeless, much more needs to be done. In the heavily populated Khmer province of Preah Trapeang [renamed Tra Vinh] and Prek Rassey [renamed Can Tho], approximately 25% have no adequate housing and 65-70% of the indigenous populations are living under poverty conditions. There are also increasing reports of half complete housing initiatives, houses built with walls but no roof. While such initiatives are a great start, half completed projects are not. Thus, we appeal to the Vietnamese government to closely monitor such projects to ensure that housing initiatives are given to those who need it to the most rather than random acts and that it is fully completed.
The core of this article is violated by daily practices and state policies toward the indigenous peoples. Khmer are discriminated against because of their unique identity and culture.
The right of equality in marriage and family relations is an example of the colonial legacy of the Viet Nam regime. The traditional practices related to courtship and marriage provided more rights to the woman in the relationship. This is a fundamental difference between the traditions of the Khmer and ethnic Vietnamese. Women were more respected in the traditional Khmer culture. Potential grooms would move in with the potential bride’s family for a period to show his devotion to their daughter and his prospective wife. Khmer women desire a return to their traditional cultural practices that respect the inherent rights and dignity of each woman in Kampuchea Krom. The restoration and recognition of the Khmer culture would improve the realization of this right of CEDAW.