Category: News

Open Letter to the President of Vietnam – Mr. Tran Dai Quang Appeal to Return the Sacred Land to the Temple

Open Letter to the President of Vietnam – Mr. Tran Dai Quang 

Appeal to Return the Sacred Land to the Temple 

Pennsauken, 17 April 2017 

Embassy of Vietnam 

Att.: Mr. Tran Dai Quang, President of Vietnam 

1233 20th St NW, Suite 400 

Washington, DC 20036 

 

Dear Mr. President: 

 Recently, there was disturbing news on the social media regarding a land dispute between a Khmer-Krom temple and local Vietnamese families who built their houses illegally on the Khmer-Krom temple’s lands. The Khmer- Krom Buddhist followers in the Mekong Delta anonymously contacted our Internet Radio, Voice of Kampuchea-Krom, to express their concern and to ask for help in appealing to your government to return the sacred land that has been confiscated from the Khmer-Krom temple. 

The confiscated land belongs to the Khmer-Krom temple, named “Me Pang”, located at the 4th commune, Phong Phu village, Cau Ke district, Tra Vinh province (p 4, Xã Phong Phú, Huyn Cu Kè, Tnh Trà Vinh). The temple was built on this land before 1975 and later moved to a new location where currently the temple is located. Even though the temple is not located on this land, the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and villagers in this commune have continued to organize Buddhist ceremonies every year on this land. 

During 1993 and 1994, there were some Vietnamese families asking the temple if they could temporary build shelters to live on the temple’s land. They promised that they would move out when the temple needed the land back. Since the temple did not need to use the land yet they agreed for them to living there temporarily. One of those families is the family of Mr. Phan Van Cua who later secretly bribed the local government to get the land title without the consent of the temple. The temple has been filing complaints with the court of Cau Ke district for almost a decade, but the court keeps denying justice for the temple. The court keeps using tactics saying that the temple does not have the land title to claim ownership. Using same tactic, the other Vietnamese families living on the temple’s land now refuses to move out as well. 

As indigenous peoples practicing Theravada Buddhism and living on their homeland in the Mekong Delta for thousands of years, our people believe that our temple’s land is the sacred land and that no one can take away their temple’s land. The Khmer-Krom temples’ lands in Mekong Delta have never had a land title. The court of Cau Ke district has been using the tactic to demand the temple land title in order to resolve the dispute. This clearly shows that the court is against the belief of the Khmer-Krom and violates Article 24.2 of Vietnam Constitution: “The State respects and protects freedom of belief and of religion”. 

In this regard, we would like to urge you to help to investigate this issue to find justice for our Khmer-Krom temple. Hopefully, the temple will be able to get back the confiscated lands to organize the ceremony peacefully without disturbing the people living on the temple’s land. 

 

Regards, 

 

Venerable TT Dhammo 

KKF Director of Religious Affairs 

Sacred Land Must Be Returned - Open Letter

Happy New Year 2017 by KKF Chairman

  During this holiday season and with the New Year fast approaching, on behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), I would like to wish you and your family a joyous holiday season  and a new year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. One that is filled with hope for a world to  be truly at peace.

  The best part of the holiday season is remembering those who make the holidays meaningful. We  would like to say a special thank you to our KKF members who have worked tirelessly around the  clock and the world to ensure that the Khmer-Krom voice is heard. From San Francisco, New York,  Washington DC (United States), Toronto, Montreal (Canada), Paris, Lyon, Toulouse (France), The  Hague (Netherland), Geneva (Switzerland), Brussels (Belgium) Canberra (Australia), Bangkok  (Thailand) to Dili (Timor Leste), Gyeongju (Republic of Korea), our voice for the voiceless Khmer-Krom in Kampuchea-Krom was loud and clear.

  In May 2016, the members of KKF around the world came to San Jose, California, to elect the Board  of Directors (BoD) for the 2016-2020 term. The Code of Conduct was signed by the newly elected BoD, thereby upholding their professional commitment to serve the interest of KKF, first and foremost.

As we close the final chapter on 2016, this upcoming new year will kick start with a celebration of our collective work for the last twenty years. From January 13-15th, the KKF BoD and supporters will meet at the heart of Las Vegas to plan for 2017. The BoD members will summarize the activities of 2016, answer all the questions from the members and present the plan for 2017. I look forward to meeting our KKF members at this important event.

Let’s working hard together to “Make KKF Great Again”. Let’s start making the “New Year 2017 legendary!”

Sincerely Yours,

Vien Thach
KKF Chairman

KKF Annual (Year-End) Meeting 2016 Announcement

Due to miscommunication and confusion lately regarding to where the KKF will host the Annual (Year-End) Meeting for 2016, on behalf of the KKF BoD, the Chairman of KKF, officially announced and wrote an invitation letter to the KKF members around the world to attend the Annual Meeting from 13-15 January 2017, in Las Vegas. Please see attached invitation letter for detail information:

Invitation letter in Khmer

Invitation letter in English

KKF youths’ letter to president Obama from UNPFII

During the first week of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation youths drafted a letter to President Obama to highlight Khmer-Krom issues they hope the President could help raise on his visit.

The content of the letter sent to the President, on May 11th, 2016 raised concerns over the issues of:

  • Religious persecution and imprisonment of Buddhist monks. 
  • Independence of the religious institution of Khmer-Krom from State control
  • Preservation of indigenous language through validation and usage in schools
  • Unequal access to higher education and opportunities for indigenous students and,
  • Consistencies of government policies to help Khmer-Krom farmers facing hardship from impact of climate change.

The Khmer-Krom people live in poverty and fear,  the Khmer-Krom youth team hopes that Mr. Obama’s visit to Vietnam can help change how the country treats  Khmer-Krom people so that they could enjoy their basic freedoms enshrined in the International Laws that Vietnam has ratified.

KKF youths sends letter to Obama from UNPFII New York, May 11 2016

 

KKF Human Rights Council Side Event Opened by Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom and Belief

–Press Release March 11, 2015–

Geneva (March 11, 2015)- Special Rapporteur (SR) on Freedom of Religion or Beliefs, Heiner Bielefeldt, opened up a side event for Religious Freedom in Vietnam and The Mekong Delta, co-organized by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF). The SR gave an overview of the reality that exists for indigenous peoples and  religious minorities in Vietnam, speaking of the contrast between the surface appearance and the actual systemization of control over religious life and institutions within the country. “Religious life is only possible within certain established channels.  These channels are very narrow and religious communities have to cope with lots of difficulty,” says Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt.

Asking if there is a problem with religious freedom, the SR stated that there is a “big problem” with religious belief and freedom.  “To be fair religious  life is possible.. it is open and accessible, and people do access them,” but they do so “within the established channel.” Examples were  given of groups requiring to request for permissions beforehand to hold religious events and where failure to accept the central decisions were equated to a “rebellious spirit” and were responded by the government with police raids, destruction of house of worships and imprisonment for some people.

While Vietnam has some policies to open up for religious freedom, “harsher persecution under the criminal code” remains for groups that wishes to assert religious autonomy.

The religious life is under strict “grip of the government control ” and is used to promote patriotic values.  “People insisting on [religious] autonomy, freeing themselves from grip of government control and even infiltration.   Religion is established to also provide courses on Marxist Leninism.  It is not only control but instrumentalizing religion.”  The reality is that public  and religious life  are being monopolized by the government.

Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt concluded his participation in the side event by thanking the people who had the courage to meet with him despite the harassment and intimidation they received.  Regarding reports that were given to him by NGOs such as KKF, the Montagnard people, and other stakeholders, Heiner said, “I am inclined to say reports are credible.  I have also to say that this visit was complicated because reprisals took place even while I was there during the visit. Our sources were harassed and intimidated many of them sometimes before and after meetings.  Some people even had worse experiences including physical attacks.  This really raises issue of reprisals which is a very serious one inflicted on people that cooperate with UN mechanisms. It undermines the entire HR work of the UN.  It will be further addressed.  UN HR Council takes issue of reprisals very seriously. Thanks to very courageous people in Vietnam who do not let themselves be intimidated and they continue their work cooperating across religious lines.”

The side event was moderated by Dr. Joshua Cooper, from the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights,  and KKF representatives, Miss Thivanada Kim, and Mr. Don Lam and Ms. Sothy Kien..

GENEVA (3/11/2015) KKF representatives met with special rapporteur on Religious Belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt on pre-session for side event co-organized by KKF.

Dr. Cooper spoke about the cooperation between religious groups in coming together to prepare the reports for the SR, the persecutions of Khmer-Krom Buddhists and Degar Christians.  He spoke about instrumental role of outside human rights defenders in not only making the violations known, but also in their intervention efforts such as the case of Venerable Ly Chanda who were defrocked and tortured, but was eventually able to secure refugee status in a third country working with the UNHCR.

Sothy Kien, provided an overview of the constraint of cultural freedom faced by the Khmer-Krom people. The issue of self-identity and the threat of being labeled belonging to a “separatist” group for asserting one as being “Khmer-Krom” makes the people afraid to call themselves by how they identify themselves.  She clarified that “Krom” does not mean ‘separatism’, it simply means below or under, which refers to the historical identity the Khmer people attached to themselves when they were separated from the Cambodian kingdom.

On the topic of reprisal, KKF representatives explained the top-down structure of control imposed by the government of Vietnam on their religious institution, which prior to 1975 were self-organized and functioning autonomously. It was noted that such control clearly violates the principle of separation between state and religion which is fundamental to having true religious freedom.

On this point, KKF panelist points out the pressure placed upon temple abbots across the provinces to assume memberships with the government created PUBA (Patriotic Unified Buddhist Association), a mechanism to interfere and control Khmer-Krom’s religious life. Using these tools, the Vietnamese government monitored, control and removed religious leaders who they saw as posing a threat to their political and cultural narrative of Vietnam and its various ethnic and indigenous groups – such were the cases of Venerable Ly Nieu, and Venerable Thach Thoeun from Tra Set Temple, Kleang.

The event ended with positive notes and engaged audiences; among a few were NGO group who had for the first time found the religious and cultural situation in Vietnam, through the rapporteur’s report, “shocking”, and “eye-opening.”

KKF appreciates the effort of the Special Rapporteurs to Vietnam that made the reality of the Khmer-Krom and other persecuted groups in Vietnam known, and validate what we had reported for so long. We thank the SR on the Field of Cultural Rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed on her report in regards to culture and her recommendations to Vietnam. We would like to thank the SR on Religious Belief, Mr. Bielefeldt, for his time and comprehensive report on the actual reality of religious freedom situation today versus what appears on the surface.  

While noting that severe restriction remains, and needs to be addressed, we applaud the direction that Vietnam has taken to invite UN experts, and urged continued dialogue with all shareholders to ensure that real progress are made and the rights as declared on paper in the country’s constitution are fully exercisable and enjoyed by all citizens.

And finally, we look forward to connecting with future experts and NGOs working in Vietnam to promote human rights, religious and cultural freedom, and the recognition of the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta and its surrounding regions.  The full reports of SR can be found via

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15678&LangID=E for Religious Belief and A/HRC/25/57/Add.1 – Office of the High Commissioner for Human … for Cultural Rights.

Human Right Watch Vietnam Press Release – 2015

Press Source: Human Rights Watch

For Immediate Release

Vietnam: Tight Control of Critics, Democracy Advocates in 2014

No Light at the End of the Tunnel for Activists

 (New York, January 29, 2015) – The human rights situation in Vietnam in 2014 continued to be characterized by one-party rule, politically motivated convictions, lack of labor rights, widespread police abuse, and an escalating land crisis, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2015. The Vietnamese government kept tight control over freedom of expression and association as bloggers, human rights defenders, labor and land rights activists, and religious and democracy advocates continued to face harassment, intimidation, physical assault, and imprisonment.

 “Vietnam’s revolving door of political prisoners continued in 2014, with some coming out but an even greater number of peaceful activists going into the country’s prisons as convicted criminals,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Many of these releases were made to gain international favor, but the fact that the number of people convicted was more than double those released undermines the Vietnamese government’s attempt to put forward a face of reform.”

Continue reading “Human Right Watch Vietnam Press Release – 2015”

Vietnam Must Obligate Its Commitments to Human Rights Council

On November 12, 2013, Vietnam was elected to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) to uphold its commitments to promote and protect human rights as set forth in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251. Despite being a member for almost a year, Vietnam has not demonstrated a serious commitment to the protection or the promotion of human rights for people around the world. Instead Vietnam continues to violate the fundamental rights of the people living in Vietnam, especially the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples living in the Mekong Delta and its surrounding areas.

On June 20, 2014, Vietnam rejected 45 key recommendations out of 227 recommendations made by Member States during its Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held on February 5, 2014. The recommendations rejected contained important core fundamental human rights which the people in Vietnam need the most, such as freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of forming independent associations.

Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was invited to visit Vietnam from 21 – 31 July, 2014. The last visit of former UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Abdelfattah was in 1998. In concluding his 10 days visit to Vietnam, Mr. Bielefeldt noted that “I received credible information that some individuals with whom I wanted to meet had been under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police.”

Continue reading “Vietnam Must Obligate Its Commitments to Human Rights Council”

KKF Put Forth Questions and Recommendations for US-VN 18th Session of Human Rights Dialog

Open Questions and Recommendations for the 18th Session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue

Silence of Indigenous Voice and Prosecution of Khmer-Krom Religious Leaders in Vietnam
Venerable Thach Thuol, Venerable Lieu Ny Facing Unjust Trial

On May 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of State released a Media Note regarding to the 18th session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue that will be held from May 12-13, 2014 in Washington DC. According to the Media Note, “Freedom of expression, rule of law, disability rights, freedom of religion, labor rights, and other human rights issues will be raised over the course of the two days.”

On behalf of the voiceless Khmer-Krom in Vietnam, we hope that the following questions and recommendations would be discussed frankly in the dialog:

 

Rights to Freedom of Expression, Press and Information

In its national report submitting to United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 November 2013, Vietnam claims that “The rights to freedom of expression, press and information are enshrined in the Constitution and laws…” Unfortunately, Vietnam continues to arrest and imprison bloggers.

Vietnam also claims that “By March 2013, there are 812 print newspapers and 1,084 publications…” 812 print newspapers and 1,084 publications”. In reality, there are no publicly-run or privately-run media operating in Vietnam. Human Rights documents are not even allowed to be distributed so the people can learn about their rights. For example, Vietnam allowed the UNDRIP to be translated to Vietnamese (http://www.na.gov.vn/nnsvn/upload/images/Attach/Quyen_cua_nguoi_thieu_so%20va%20ban%20dia.pdf), but this document is not allowed to be freely distributed in Vietnam. Thus, there are very few Indigenous Peoples that know about the existence of this document.

 

Questions:

  1. How does Vietnam guarantee Freedom of Expression if it continues to have the “Penal Code, Article 258” in its constitution?

  1. In recognition of those who exercised their basic right to speak, will Vietnam release Venerable Thach Thuol who was sentenced for 6 years in prison in September 27, 2013 for conducting an interview expressing his concern about practicing Theravada Buddhism in fear?

    Continue reading “KKF Put Forth Questions and Recommendations for US-VN 18th Session of Human Rights Dialog”

KKF and Khmer-Krom communities participate in Long Beach, Cambodian New Year Parade

On Sunday April 6th 2014, members of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) participated in the Annual Khmer New Year Celebration in Long Beach, California, USA.

Cladded in the colors of Khmer-Krom flag of red, blue and yellow, the procession was led by a group of Cha Yum performers dancing to the rhythm of the drums.

In front of the beautifully decorated float, stood a proud Oknha Son Kuy, one of the most renowned and recognized Khmer-Krom heroes from Kampuchea-Krom, who was behead by the Vietnamese Court of Hue in 1841 in exchange for the right of the Khmer-Krom people to live according to their culture, tradition and religion customs.

“We are proud and delighted to work in the collaboration with the Khmer Krom Association of Southern California, and the Khmer Krom Buddhist Temple in Long Beach, California to represent our Khmer-Krom,” says Mr. Prak Sereivuth, KKF Vice President.

A KKF Booth was also set up after the parade allowing visitors to come and ask questions about peaceful advocacy of the organization and the people it represents.

“There were American people as well as Cambodians who came and asked us about the Khmer-Krom map and to learn about our human rights issues,” says Mr. Prak Sereivuth.

Thousands of Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and people in Kampuchea-Krom are also flocking to their local temples to prepare and celebrate the Khmer New Year, a three day event celebrated by Khmer communities around the world from 14-16th of April 2014.

Khmer Grammar Book Seized by Vietnamese Authorities and Prohibited from Distribution

According to a report by the Voice of Kampuchea Krom (VOKK)  on the 13-14th February 2014 a Khmer Grammar book that was published in Thailand and sent to Kampuchea Krom was seized by Vietnamese authorities and prohibited from distribution.

Entitled, “វេយ្យាករណ៍ខ្មែរសង្គ្រោះ” the Khmer Grammar book was originally written by Thach Ek in  Kompong Spean (rename Cau Ke) District, Preah Trapeang (renamed Tra Vinh) province and was printed and published by Venerable Thach Chan Dara, a Khmer Krom Buddhist monk studying in Thailand.

The book was sent to be distributed to Khmer Krom teachers and students as a reference guide to the Khmer language. Upon its arrival in Kampuchea-Krom on the 13th of February 2014, 10 police officers began to ask questions in regards to who created the book, published it and how was it sent over. Two books were given to the local Vietnamese authorities so the content of the book could to be examined. However,the Vietnamese authorities returned  the next day and confiscated all the books, stating that it was against the Vietnam law and that content of the book was not approved by the Vietnam Government and they were prohibited from distributing it.

“I have asked permission from the creator of this book to publish it because I thought it was important for our studies,” says Venerable Thach Chan Dara in the interview with VOKK.

Venerable Thach Chan Dara has expressed his concern over the confiscated books, stating that the book was about Khmer grammar and did not contain anything political content that would oppose the Vietnamese Government.

“There is nothing lawfully wrong about this book. It does not contain any political content, or go against the Vietnam government. It serves to promote and encourage students and teachers to read and learn more about our Khmer language,” Venerable Thach Chan Dara adds.

The creation and publication of Khmer books, history and culture continued to be closely monitored and prohibited by the Vietnamese Government. This example clearly shows that there are no Freedom of Press in Vietnam contrary to what what the Vietnamese government has stated in their recent Universal Period Review in Geneva on February 5th 2014.

Picture: Thach Chan Dara holds Khmer Grammar Book that was prohibited from being distributed in Vietnam

Source: http://vokk.net/?p=14852