Third Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on the Indigenous Issues Item 4 (d): Human Rights Date: Friday, May 14, 2004 and Monday, May 17, 2004
Speaker: Sereivuth Prak Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Members of the Permanent Forum: My name is Sereivuth Prak. I am honored and grateful to the United Nations for giving me an opportunity to speak about the human rights violations of the Khmer Krom people by the Vietnamese government. From the top of the world (29,000 feet of Mount Everest of the Himalayas Mountain Range) near China to the South China Sea lays the 2,700 miles stretch of the Mekong River, which flows across many indigenous nations who share similar Buddhist religion. However, one of them situated at the outlet of the Mekong River into the South China Sea, which is still mysteriously unknown to the outside world. And that tiny nation is the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom, which is located along the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam. I. Background of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom: – Originating from the Funan Kingdom in the 1st century, “Kampuchea-Krom” has been the homeland of Khmer Krom People. It became French Cochin-China colony in 1867. Later, this homeland has been illegally ceded to Vietnam on June 4, 1949 without the approval of Khmer Krom People. – Kampuchea-Krom is approximately 68,600 square kilometers covered all the fertile lands along the Mekong River Delta and other parts of Vietnam. It is bordering with Cambodia on the north, on the Gulf of Thailand to the west, on the South China Sea to the south, and former Champa territory (the Central Highland) on the northeast. One of the most important commercial cities of Kampuchea-Krom was Prey Nokor. Vietnam changed its name to Saigon and later on to Ho-Chi-Minh City after the Communist victory in 1975. There is estimated between 8 to 10 millions Khmer Krom now live in Vietnam and around the world. II. Problems regarding Human Rights Violations on Khmer Kroms: – The Vietnamese authority has imposed harsh punishment on Khmer Krom Buddhist monks. Buddhism is a symbol of obstacle to the Vietnamese repressive policy. It also helps Khmer Kroms to preserve their nationalism, identity, solidarity, culture, tradition, custom, and language. Hundreds of Khmer Krom Buddhist monk leaders were imprisoned, tortured, and executed. Many temples were destroyed. – The Khmer language is spoken in all Khmer Krom families and communities and it is taught at home and at the Buddhist temples. For official business, however, the Vietnamese language is strictly enforced. About 10 percent of Khmer Kroms are able to speak and write Vietnamese correctly. To maintain their control over the livelihood and the mobility of these people, the Vietnamese Government forced all the Khmer Kroms to bear only less than ten last names, each of which signifies the ethnic and geographical background of that person. – There have been countless atrocities committed by the Vietnamese government against the Khmer Krom people. These are some of their holocausts: – During the dynasty of King Gia Long of Vietnam (1802-1819), thousands of Khmer Kroms were forced to dig a canal named Vinh Te, 53 kilometers long and 25 meters wide, from Basac River (a tributary of the Mekong River) to the Gulf of Thailand. When the project was near completion, the Vietnamese opened both canal flood gates from the Basac River and from the Gulf of Thailand without advanced warning. Thousands of Khmer Kroms were killed in that mass flood execution. – At the same time, when other Khmer Kroms protested against this repressive policy, the Vietnamese government arrested them and buried them alive up to their necks, in each group of three or four prisoners in triangle or rectangle. The Vietnamese butchers used the prisoner heads as stove stands to put a big pot of water on their top. When they boiled the water to make tea for their Vietnamese masters, these Khmer Krom prisoners suffered indescribably and moved their heads. The butchers laughingly told them “not to shake the master teapot”. No Khmer Krom or Cambodian has ever forgotten this word. – During the Japanese occupation of Indochina near the end of World War II in 1945, the Vietnamese authority deceived thousands of Khmer Kroms to attend the conventions inside many warehouses that the French used to stockpile rice. During meetings, the Vietnamese locked the outside doors and burned them alive inside the warehouses. – After the fall of Saigon in 1975, thousands of Khmer Krom Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens were falsely accused by Hanoi of opposing the Communist regime. They arrested them in big numbers at every place, imprisoned, tortured, and executed them without any trials. They forced the Khmer Kroms to move away from their villages in the Mekong River Delta to the new economic zones in the remote jungles full of land mines, malaria, diseases, and leeches without adequate foods, medicines, or tool supplies. In the mean time, Hanoi migrated their citizens to live in these Khmer Krom’s fertile lands. The assassination, imprisonment, torture, and execution still happen everyday now to these Khmer Kroms. III. Solution to Prevent Further Human Rights Violations on Khmer Kroms: – Request the United Nations Human Rights Commission to station in the Mekong River Delta to closely monitor the abuses by the Vietnamese Government against the Khmer Krom as well as in the Central Highland of Vietnam to protect the Montagnard hill tribes. – United Nations should be the leading figure to rally the international community to make economic sanctions against the Hanoi regime for their non-compliance in human right violation issues as well as to pressure this Communist nation to open its door for people of all ethnics to enjoy freedom of expression and to participate in the democratic process. – United Nations and the world community should send the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) of medical teams, educators, vocational trainers, and experts on other fields to help the Khmer Kroms and the Montagnards. Advocate on behalf of these poor people to request for scholarships from the multi-national corporations and donor countries to bring the best qualified students from these ethnic group to study overseas. Require percentage of foreign aid to Vietnam be fairly distributed to these people or developed in these areas. – Finally, we wish to see the United Nations Peace Keeping Forces deployment in the areas, like they did in East Timor, Bosnia, Cyprus, Golan Height, and other parts of the world to prevent the ethnic cleansing by the Communist Vietnamese Government. Thank you.