“The Long March to Kampuchea-Krom Motherland” By Lenny Thach The representatives of KKFYC attended the 8th World Convention, the three days session, of the KKF held at the city of Denver, Colorado, on June 6th – 8th, 2008. The theme of this convention is the “The Long March to Kampuchea-Krom Motherland”. The topics covering in this convention include: Report KKF’s activities in the past four years, Elect new KKF Board of Directors, Financial Report, Presentation about Human Rights and Religious Freedom. June 6-8, 2008, Denver – The 8th World Convention of KKF was organized at the heart of the city of Denver, Colorado with full attendees, KKF’s Delegates and Members from across the United States (50 states), Cambodia, and Canada, on this exciting event which was opened to the public. The KKF’s Chairman, To Kim Thong, opened the remark of the 8th World Convention of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, the first ever addressed to the KKF’s delegates and members: “Good morning and welcome! It’s good to have you all here to help the KKF’s convention which launched with a vision and a noble purpose. The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation is just as we’ve been told, more than; it’s a remarkable accomplishment for the past four years. It’s such a worthwhile, important initiative for the year 2004 – 2008. It’s never happened before. After the 7th World Convention in New Jersey in 2004, the new teams and new leaders had been working hard, such as: Mr. Thach N. Thach, Mr. Tran Giap, Mr. Prak Sereivuth, Mr. Tran Mannrinh, Mrs Son Thi Nith, Respected Venerable Thach Berong, Ven. Dhammo Truong, KKFYC team, and especially Dr. Joshua Cooper – Director of the Human Rights Institute of Hawaii. You all have my heartfelt thanks and warmest congratulations. And a special thank you to our elite leaders – Mr. Thach N. Thach, Prak Sereivuth, Giap Tran and Joshua Cooper, who has been dedicated and sacrificed in helping Khmer Krom people and carrying the messages for the past four years on missions here and there throughout the world.” KKF President, Mr. Thach N. Thach, spoke next and reported the important issues about the Khmer Krom peoples’ sufferings and struggles under the Vietnamese government for more than 50 years and the problems are still unresolved. KKF now has improved and established the right direction to the heart of Khmer Krom people. “Speaking out and demanding human rights and religious freedom, Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the peaceful reconciliation of differences is good and the right thing to do. But it is not good enough. We must work hard to bring peace, democracy and freedom that mean putting our resources — organizations, heart and soul together, for long-term mission, called, “The Long March to Kampuchea-Krom Motherland.” Khmer Kampuchea Krom is now a reality. We are no longer hidden in the shadows. We will stand proudly in the spotlight, and that is where we belong. We can and should be proud of ourselves and our messages about human rights and religious freedom. The Vietnamese government must respect human rights and give us religious freedom, and freedom of expression, freedom of press, assembly, political participation, and peaceful cooperation. Government which serves their citizens encourages, spiritual and economic vitality. And we will not be shy in offering this message of hope to Khmer Krom. We are not trying to create imitations of the KKF’s system around the world. Because, there is no simple songs or music for political development that is right for all people, and there is no timetable. The principles and basic institutions of Human Rights and Religious Freedom are universal. Democratic development must take into account historic, cultural and social conditions.” During the convention, we had many key speakers from different states and countries, including KKF Board of Directors and representatives, President of KKF Colorado Chapter, Sereivuth Prak, Giap Tran, Mannrinh Tran, Xe Thach, Son Thi Nith, and Ven. Truong Dhammo, Ven. Berong Thach, Ven. Kan Saphanarith, Mrs. Kien Sakhan, Dr. Chang Thach, and Dr. Joshua Cooper, who spoke about the reports for the past four years and other important issues such as human rights, cultural, education, social and economic, and religious freedom. Dr. Joshua Cooper, Director of the Human Rights Institute of Hawaii, addressed to the KKF’s leaders and members on how to understand and use the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Universal Declaration of Human Rights as tools to challenge for the hopes of Khmer Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom. He also recommended that KKF use the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to raise the prestige of the Khmer Krom education, economic, culture, language, religious freedom and human rights by supporting the efforts toward standardization. Urge all agencies or parties to ensure the protection and development of Indigenous Peoples, especially the Indigenous Khmer Krom Peoples living in Kampuchea Krom which is now known as South Vietnam. He has trained the Khmer Krom youths on how to defend indigenous rights at the international bodies, such as the U.N. and the E.U bodies, in order to protect their human rights and to become the activists for promoting and protecting the rights of the Indigenous Peoples. On the Second Day, the KKF members elected the new KKF Board of Directors based on the KKF’s election law. The former KKF Board of Directors had been re-elected for the 2008 – 2012 Term as follows: ELECTED KKF BOARD OF DIRECTORS BY VOTE: 1. To Kim Thong 2. Thach N. Thach 3. Prak Sereivuth 4. Tran Giap 5. Thach Xe 6. Chau Reap 7. Tran Mannrinh ELECTED KKF BOARD OF DIRECTORS BY NOMINATION: 8. Ven. Thach Truong Dhammo 9. Ven. Thach Berong 10. Son Thi Nith (Represent for Women) 11. Chau Serey (Represent for Youths ) The new KKF Board of Directors is the future and contains greater number of representatives for the next generation. On the Third Day, Prak Sereivuth addressed to KKF on International Affairs, lobbying strategies, U.S. Congressional briefing, and the Khmer Krom savior under Vietnamese government since 1949. After the French colonial power in the Indochina without the plebiscite of the Khmer Krom people. As a result, millions of Khmer Krom people, who remain deeply attached to their culture, religion, customs, traditions, and ancestral lands, have been severely suffered by the human rights violations and religious persecutions under the tight control of the Vietnamese government. The Vietnamese government has violated Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” During the Congressional Briefing on Religious Freedom in Vietnam on December 6, 2008, he had recommended that the U.S. Congress request the U.S. State Department to place Vietnam back onto the Country of Particular Concern (CPC) list. The 8th World Convention of KKF was successfully and marked accomplishments for the past four years. The new KKF’s leaders were elected for the hopes and dreams of Khmer Krom in the future. Each movement will find its own route and the values for Khmer Krom who will reach out to those who can make a big difference now and who will guide the Khmer Krom to their destiny of their people in the future. The elected new leaders proposed the next four years development plan, strategies for development and seek support from Khmer Krom people. The support of KKFYC team to KKF will make tremendous progress for the movement of KKF in the future. The convention ended smoothly, peacefully and blessed with a Blessing Dance performed by the Khmer students of Colorado State. Special thanks to Denver Convention organizers and the members throughout the region and Khmer Samaki Temple with deepest gratitude.