23 May 2007 By Mayarith – Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy of KI Media Since last week, a verbal dispute erupted between the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and a Vietnamese government official, over the truth regarding the sentence handed down on Khmer Krom monks in Southern Vietnam. At the Sixth UN Permanent Forum held in New York City, a representative of the KKF delegation raised the issue of Hanoi’s pressure and oppression against Khmer Kampuchea Krom people in their practice of Buddhism in Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam). However, Hanoi’s representative at the UN reacted by saying that the KKF claims are propaganda and accusations made by a party that is opposed to the Hanoi regime. Last week, Nguyen Tan Than, the deputy-representative of Hanoi’s permanent mission at the UN, accused the KKF and the Montagnard Foundation – based in the US – of involvement in separatism in Vietnam. During the conference, Nguyen Tan Than requested that Khmer Krom and Montagnard representatives be banned from attending the forum. Nguyen Tan Than verbal accusations were pursued until this week during the Sixth session of the UN Permanent Forum which will be held until 25 May. During a speech given at the Sixth UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), Nguyen Tan Than defended Hanoi’s actions, in particular, the recent arrest and sentence of Khmer Krom monks. Nguyen Tan Than said: “ It is very regrettable and very discouraging to see this Forum believing baseless information from an outside source rather than believing information provided by our government, or the information about our effort to help the 53 ethnic minorities in Vietnam. A declaration which we heard today, claims that our [Hanoi] government arrested and sentenced a number of monks, as if these actions were taken based on [Hanoi’s] opposition to religious belief, or based on an alleged peaceful demonstration.” Nguyen Tan Than also added that: “The constitution and the law in Vietnam guarantee the right to freedom, religion, and belief, and they guarantee the equality of rights among everybody in front of the law. These are the goals that Vietnam will pursue in order to develop the country’s law. Whoever perpetrates a crime, must be sentenced under the Vietnamese law, irrespective of whether they are ethnic minorities or their religious belief.” Thach Ngoc Thach, the representative of the KKF delegation, reacted to Nguyen Tan Than’s defense of the Hanoi regime. He said that KKF brought in documents detailing the accusations KKF made against Hanoi, and they will be displayed to the UN conference on Tuesday, so that the world could witness the violation of the rights of indigenous people in Vietnam, and that these violations actually took place. Thach Ngoc Thac said: “They accused the monks of creating a traffic jam, of creating disorder in the village only, this is neither a crime for creating separatism, nor is it a crime to hurt the interest of society. We want to show to the UN and to the forum that even Vietnam’s own representative did not receive the actual information from his own government, it is totally the opposite, and today we will bring to the forum about the sentence handed down in Khleang province (Soc Trang), a case which the Vietnamese representative is contradicting with his own government.” UNPFII will conclude this Friday. Thach Ngoc Thach said that he will try all he can to provide some points for Vietnam to recognize. “We demand that, in term of Cambodian Buddhism, it should be administered by Khmer Krom monks, and not by the Vietnamese government, that is: all sentences involving religion should involve the Khmer (Krom) community, it should not be an oppression, it should not be a sentence without proper consultation with Khmer (Krom) people and Khmer (Krom) Buddhists. We do not want to see the Vietnamese government doing anything it wants.” Thach Ngoc Thach said that the Vietnamese effort to prevent KKF and the Montagnard Foundation from participating in the forum was a failure. He said that Mrs. Wichy, the UNPFII chairwoman, said at the beginning of this week, that all indigenous people must have their voices in front of the law. The chairwoman also said that any country that have issues with indigenous people, it must discuss them in front of the law, it should not violate (the indigenous people), and it should avoid using violence against indigenous people living inside its borders.