Over eleven Khmer Krom representatives headed to Washington DC to testify against Vietnam during the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on Vietnam on Thursday 06 December 2007. The event is the first of kind for Khmer Krom, the testimony by Mr. Sereivuth Prak, Vice President of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and International Affairs details the stark reality and human rights violation that continue to be committed against that Khmer Krom people and Buddhist monk under communist Vietnam See below for summary of the briefing:
Congressional Human Rights Caucus (CHRC) on Vietnam December 06, 2007 10:30 – 12:00 Office of Congressman Lantos 2413 Rayburn HOB Room 2255 Washington, DC 20515
Panel 1: Ambassador John Hanford, U.S. Department of State Panel 2: Commissioner Leonard Leo, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Panel 3: Chris Seiple, Institution of Global Engagement T. Kumar, Amnesty International Sereivuth Prak, Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation Nguyen Dinh Thang, Boat People SOS
U.S. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, acting as Briefing Chair opened with a Statement on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Briefing on Religious Freedom in Vietnam and welcome Ambassador Hanford, Commissioner Leo, and all of the panelists and guests. “I have been very concerned that the State Department removed Vietnam from its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) on November 13, 2006. Prior to my trip to Vietnam in April, my previous three visa requests to travel to Vietnam were denied by the Vietnam Government due to my outspoken concern about Vietnam’s human rights and religious freedom violation.” Congresswoman Sanchez was keen to hear from Mr. Leo Leonard, US Commission on International Freedom about his observation during the visit to Vietnam on Oct 23, 2007 to Nov 2, 2007. Mr. Leo testimony stated that: “Vietnam’s overall human rights record remains very poor and has deteriorated in the last year. The government of Vietnam has decisively moved to repress challenges to its authority. Dozens of legal and political reform advocates, free speech activists, labor unionists, and independent religious leaders and religious freedom advocates have been arrested, placed under home detention or surveillance, threatened, intimidated, and harassed.” As part of this testimony in Section II Buddhist Group Face Harassment and Abuses, the Commissioner stated that “is particular true of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), some Hoa Hao, and Cai Dai groups, as well as Khmer Buddhist.” The Commissioner also reiterate the evidence that “five Khmer Buddhist monks and are in prison for organizing peaceful demonstrations to protest restrictions on ordination and language training in Soc Trang province.” He concludes by stating that U.S. must continue to make clear to the Hanoi government that Vietnam must allows for openness, prosperity and freedom.
Panelist testimony was then given by Mr. T. Kumar, representative of Amnesty International. He stated that Vietnam government needs to take the U.S. seriously for the interest for the both countries. Panelist testimony by PhD. Chris Seiple President Institution of Global Engagement “In understanding religious freedom–the cornerstone of civil society because of its inherent respect for the other–it is critical to keep in mind that values do not take place in vacuum. They are lived out everyday amidst the messiness of life.” One question was raised asking Congresswoman Sanchez what can be done about this. It was suggested that work must be done from top and bottom up at all levels with a clear strategic plan. Religious in Vietnam is part of the solution and very important point of contact in some degree to religious leader not threat to the society to serve people in their own faith. “We need to work toward a national law regarding religion, and significant internal political forces that seek to affirm rule of law in the context of religion and religious freedom.” Panelist testimony was then given by Sereivuth Prak, representative of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and International Affairs: In his statement he said that the majority Khmer Krom in southern part of Vietnam believes in Theravada Buddhism. For example: like the Christianity there are Catholic or Presbyterian but it’s very similar of faith. He brought up the issue of Venerable Tim Sakhorn, who was defrocked and deported to Vietnam and imprisonment in An Giang province for providing shelter to his fellow-country people. He was brought to trial in An Giang province for undermining national unity between the Vietnam and Cambodia. He also mentioned the five former Khmer Krom monks currently imprison in Soc Trang province. Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang Boat People SOS also testified stating that Vietnam government only recognizes the religion denomination and registers in legal activity and ordinance restriction by the local government. For example: in Soc Trang province the Khmer Buddhist monks has been pushed to the corner just because they conducted a demonstration to express their want of religious freedom. We, the KKF would like to extended our sincere thanks for The Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Cambodian for Human Rights and Democracy supports group that led by Dr. Nicole Ung, Venerable Xarong, and Khmer Krom group that led by Mr. Tran Mannrinh.