UNPFII Fifth Session Item 3: Intervention by Permanent Members

Interventions by Board of Permanent Forum Members
Wednesday 17th May 2006

Willie Littlechild

I am encouraged in dialogue with states. We have not had adequate times to exchange views. I want to begin with the last presentation. I want to give own personal congratulations with her recognition by Spain. Thank you to Spain. In the order of presentation, let me begin with Sami parliament and Norway. Their first sentence, I will quote, My delegation would like to emphasize that a rights based approach is fundamental to reach the MDGs. I also want to combine with Greenland. The strategy they are taking is a rights-based approach and strengthen the right of SD of Ips as a basic instrument for defining human rights in international context. Then look at the Rio group and thank them for admonishing us.

PFII should not only highlight shortcoming but also to advocate for debt relief. Yesterday, we had an intervention by indigenous woman or global caucus and they referred to debt. They commented the greatest debt is owed to Ips as stated in SR. With the Vietnamese intervention in their concluding remarks are quite aggressive in rejecting all groundless information. I am wondering if that takes into account the position of some delegations previous to this aspect of self-identification and a direct argument against as well. Now, I can move toward a positive statement because it fits my line.

Fiji looks forward to the adoption of the DRIP later this year. Which brings me toUS/AUS/NZ. I want to express a reservation. I want to come back to this under Agenda Item 4. I want to come back to it but for the time being with the greatest respect. One of our elders would say them are fighting words. The joint intervention states articulating SD is a misrepresentation of this right. What it does is recognize and affirm existing inherent rights. As to creating potential instability, again I would beg to differ. From a different perspective it has the potential for partnership much in line with Sami parliament intervention when he calls and reflects on expert seminar in Nuuk. If I can quote from him. The rights of UN DRIP underscores full and effective participation. Once the DRIP is adopted, it can be partnership.

I asked for a legal opinion on consensus. We did receive it. A part of our mandate calls on us to have consensus as a rule of procedure. Look at that definition. In my view and like others I have been on this matter since 1977. I have been involved since 1975 when the first declaration and the rights and duties of principles. We do have consensus based on UN definition. UN calls on states to express a reservation but that does not mean we don’t have consensus. About the DRIP undermining human rights, it is a potential for Ips to catch up with the rest of the world. The words that this declaration as artificial and irrelevant. I would have to juxtapose that many states and scholars would disagree and counter it with legal arguments not just a statement like this. I want to hold until next week with a legal argument. The situation of Ips in some countries is worrisome. I would worry indeed in those countries. I save the best for last. Now, I challenge Canada to take a new active role to being elected to the new HR Council. Will you be prepared to move for adoption in the new HR council

Ortilla
We want to hear governments talk about direct programs to eliminate hunger and inequity for our peoples which fall to the youth, children and women. We want to hear about better cooperation and coordination of their activities. I think all of us would focus on environmental sustainability. It was interesting to hear the transparency in the US/AUS/NZ. All of us sitting here have noted that we must begin an exhaustive analysis of colonial and historical of why there is inequity. We created this forum to speak to UNESCO and UN so it can elaborate policies to redress these inequalities. We the Ips want to reestablish our countries in the framework of human rights and the rule of law. We don’t want to be divided. We wish to reestablish publics on a shared vision of an indigenous and non-indigenous vision. What we need is the vision of indigenous because we are subjects of international law. We have sought to have our natural resources respected as well. All of this represents life and true equity in our states. So, it is worthwhile globalizing a number of values for respect, coexistence in the spirit
of justice and peace.

William Langeveldt
With all due respect to these three states, I wish to speak as a Korana from S. Africa. The plight and suffering of my ancestors. Colonization was the mother of all debt. It destroyed so many communities that were alienated from their way of life. Slavery shaped colonial societies imposing master/slave relationship based on skin color. I do not know. What have they been cooing for the last 300 – 400 years. Lands and resources stolen from IPS must eventually be returned. Collective rights are what Ips are about. We share everything equally among ourselves. It is our indigenous way of life. I call upon all of the governments of the world to ratify the rights of Ips.

Oppaluk

It is important that Norway and Denmark have their Ips speak on their behalf. Both Norway and Sami are represented by Johan. I thank you both for your interventions. More states should do so. I look forward to the future in the work you are doing. I look forward to the work in your countries. Global association of indigenous parliamentarians. I hope the indigenous parliamentarians would talk on this initiative with the parliament present here. I thank the governments for the full support of indigenous peoples. You have shown such an exemplary manner in dealing with indigenous issues. It was a surprising intervention by the US/NZ/AUS. I support the comments made by other members of the PFII especially Willie Littlechild. I also hope we will have discussion when we have the opportunity to discuss on Monday. Johan said on behalf of Greenland/Denmark. The strategy of rights based approach is the overall way to strengthen the rights of Ips to define indigenous rights in national and international context. This is one of the most distinguished comments and a dignified manner to discuss with Ips.

Pasharam
Is Vietnam going to recognize Ips. I would like to ask how they are treating ethnic minorities as Ips or in other ways. Particular their comment in the last. If States are behaving in such a way here toward its own people. How do you think the problems will be resolved? This is the time we need to reconcile the conflict. I think Vietnam should think about solving the problem in the country.

Country is ours but their state is not ours. This is the time we need to change this phrase. Country is ours as well as state is ours. If the states re not going to recognize the rights of Ips as different peoples that is the challenge to the entire civilizations. I call upon all states to support the DRIP unconditionally.

Item 4 (f) Human rights

Collective Statement by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation
Speaker: Romy THACH
l Click here to read original speech in FRENCH

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Madam Chair,

Today Vietnam proudly tells the International community of its preoccupation of the ethnic minorities’ situations. Unfortunately, the recent human rights violations have been committed by the Vietnamese authorities toward the Indigenous Khmer Krom and Montagnard peoples raised serious concerns to the conscience of the world.

As this is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to grade its adoption and implementation. Unfortunately Vietnam is failing miserably. We will begin with the most recent heinous crimes and human rights abuses.

Recently, the district Svay Tong in the province of Mouat Chrouk (renamed An Giang in Vietnamese) has been the scene of acts of terror. The source for Radio Free Asia reported that on April 8 this month, at around 2:20 in the morning, 10 Vietnamese police cars have forcibly entered into the town of Chau Laing. Some gunshots were fired by the police directly hitting 5 people. Among those injured were M. Chau Hen, and his wife, Mrs. Neang Phon. They were hit in the legs and have been refused medical care. The children of Mr. Chau Hen were found unconscious after a gas of unknown substance has been launched in their home. Mr. Chau Hen is part of a group of farmers-Khmer Krom who gathered to ask the Vietnamese authorities the reason why they pushed them to burn an important bridge used by farmers to reach their rice fields. According to Mrs Neang Phon interviewed by Radio Free Asia, the five Khmer Kroms who were shot have been refused of care by the closest hospital.

At around 2:00PM, on April 11 2008, fifty Montagnard Christian believers held a peaceful and non-violent demonstration in the local Office of Ia Chia, a demonstration that has been repressed violently by the local police force. The popular protest pleaded the liberation of 3 Christian brothers Puih H’Bats, Kson Sims, and Rahlon Don,that had been jailed simply for sustaining their faith while refusing to join the Vietnamese government sanctioned church. Following this demonstration two more believers Kson Ien and Rahlan have been thrown in jail. This has lead to a chain reaction of protest throughout the central Highlands of Vietnam.

Madam Chair, there are millions of the Indigenous Khmer Krom and the Montagnard people in Vietnam and we are already over halfway toward the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, the human rights situation and poverty of Khmer Krom and the Montagnard people has become worse. To achieve the development goals, Vietnam must recognize that the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is imperative.

From a broader perspective, the recognition of indigenous peoples by governments around the world is a fundamental step forward. To organize and to cross this stage is a matter of utmost importance that requires the greatest attention and greatest efforts.

We recommend in consequence to the Permanent Instance to lead a collaborative work with the states members sanctioned by exact deadlines with benchmarks in order to set recognition of indigenous peoples such as Khmer Krom and Montagnard.

Ask the UNPFII and respected members of PFII to insist Vietnam, as a member of a non-permanent members of the Security Council, to cooperate more fully with the United Nations’ Human Rights mechanisms and Special Rapporteurs. It is unfortunate that none of them has received an invitation since 1998. The Vietnam should issue specials invitations to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on issues of religious intolerance, torture, indigenous peoples, and arbitrary detention.

To conclude, remember that last month, during the 7th session of the board of Human Rights in Geneva, Vietnam declared to be ready for a dialogue on the question of Human Rights. The Permanent Forum isn’t it an ideal opportunity to demonstrate this intent? Let’s begin now. We are ready and willing to share wisdom and work together for a future of human rights in the Asia region.

Item 4(f) : Human Rights (French version)

Intervention Jointe de la fédération des Khmers du Kampuchea-Krom et de la fondation des Montagnards
Speaker: Romy THACH

Madame le Président,
Aujourd’hui, le Vietnam affirme à la communauté internationale sa préoccupation des minorités ethniques. Malheureusement la recrudescence des répressions et des arrestations arbitraires à l’encontre de nos peuples suscitent une inquiétude grandissante.

Encore récemment, la province de Mouat Chrouk (Renommé An Giang en vietnamien) a été le théâtre d’actes de terreur. La source Radio Free Asia a rapporté qu’au 8 avril de ce mois, à approximativement 2 :20 du matin, dix voitures de police ont fait irruption dans le village de Chau Leang district de Svay Tong afin d’arrêter M. CHAU Hen et M. CHAU Ut. Des coups de feu on été tirés délibérément sur la foule par les forces de police frappant directement cinq personnes. Parmi les personnes blessées Madame Chau Hen, Madame Neang Phon on été blessées aux jambes. Les enfants de M. Chau Hen ont été retrouvés inconscient après qu’un gaz de substance inconnu ait été lancé dans leur maison. Pendant cette attaque, six villageois Khmer Krom ont été arrêtés et incarcérés par la police. Mme Neang Phon interviewé par Radio Free Asia à confirmé que les cinq personnes blessées ont été refusée de soins à l’hôpital le plus proche.
M. Chau Hen fait parti d’un groupe d’agriculteurs Khmer-Krom qui se sont rassemblés pour demander aux autorités vietnamiennes la raison qui les ont poussés à brûler un pont important utilisé par les fermiers pour rejoindre leurs champs de riz.

Le 11 avril 2008 au environ de 2h de l’après midi, cinquante montagnards chrétiens ont tenu une manifestation pacifique au bureau communal de ia Chia, manifestation qui a été violemment réprimé par les forces de police locale. La protestation populaire plaidait la libération de 3 frères chrétiens Puih H’Bat, Kson Sim, et Rahlon Don ayant été emprisonné pour le simple fait d’avoir soutenu leur foi et refusant d’intégrer l’église agréée par le gouvernement vietnamien. Suite à cette manifestation pacifique, deux croyants supplémentaires Kson Ien et Rahlan Toi ont été emprisonnés, relançant la colère populaire et engendrant un nouveau mouvement de protestation à travers les hautes terres centrales du Vietnam.

Madame le Président, l’échéance des Objectifs de Développement du Millénaire se rapproche et malheureusement la situation des Droits de l’Homme des Khmer-Krom et des Montagnards continue à s’aggraver. Nos peuples représentent au Vietnam plusieurs millions de personnes. C’est pourquoi, pour atteindre les objectifs de développement qu’il s’est fixé, le Vietnam doit reconnaître que l’application de la Déclaration des Droits des Peuples Autochtones est impérative.
D’un point du vue plus général, la reconnaissance des peuples autochtones par les gouvernements qui les administrent à travers le monde est une étape fondamentale du progrès. Organiser et planifier le franchissement de cette étape est un point essentiel qui nécessite la plus grande attention et les plus grands efforts.

Nous recommandons en conséquence que l’instance permanente engage un travail collaboratif avec les états membres sanctionné par un calendrier précis afin que les peuples autochtones tel que les Khmer-Krom et les Montagnards soient reconnus.

Nous demandons que l’instance permanente insiste sur le fait que le Vietnam, en tant que membre non-permanent du conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies, doit coopérer plus étroitement avec les mécanismes des Nations Unies sur les droits de l’Homme et avec les rapporteurs spéciaux. Il est regrettable qu’aucun d’entres eux n’ait reçu d’invitation depuis 1998. Le Vietnam devrait particulièrement émettre des invitations aux rapporteurs spéciaux des Nations Unies sur les questions de l’intolérance religieuse, de la torture, sur les peuples autochtones, ainsi que la détention arbitraire.

Pour conclure, rappelons que le mois dernier, au cours de la 7ème session du conseil des Droits de l’Homme à Genève, le Vietnam déclarait être prêt à un dialogue sur la question des Droits de l’Homme. Le Forum Permanent n’est-il pas l’occasion idéale de démontrer cette intention ? Nous sommes prêts et motivé à travailler ensemble pour un avenir des Droits de l’Homme dans la région asiatique.

Item 9: Future Work

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Wednesday 30 April 2008
Speech given by Miss. Sophac Thach on the Future Work agenda item

Madame Chair,

We are particularly encouraged by your response comment on Tuesday towards the statement made by Vietnam representative that, “the purpose of the permanent forum is to have indigenous people to be able to voice their concerns on any issues relating to people in their homeland.”

In Vietnam there is growing evidence that the indigenous Khmer Krom and other indigenous peoples often bear the greatest burden of poverty. There are also social barriers that limit indigenous Khmer Krom and the Montagnard peoples the capacity to take an active role in decision-making through the local community. These include limited access to services, programs and lack of recognition and representation. For example, in Vietnam it is prohibited for people to stand up for their basic rights and/or form any social support organization. The KKF accumulates information from our homeland to present to the global community to protect our fellow Khmer Krom.

Vietnam attends the UNPFII every year and also supported the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We Khmer Krom and Degar peoples are irrefutably indigenous people but yet Vietnam continues to deny our identity and our rights as the indigenous peoples. Vietnam needs to commit more than just rhetoric and repeated statements, we need the dialogue you Madam Chair suggested. We are extended a hand of human rights, reconciliation and peace in our region of Asia to the Vietnam government. Will they accept a historic meeting this week or will we repeat this scenario again next year while more Khmer Krom’s lives worsen?

In light of the forum’s future work, we would like to propose the following recommendations:

  • We seek the Permanent Forum to set a commission for the recognition of Indigenous people which should be invited by the Vietnamese Government.
  • We request that Vietnam to have an open dialogue with our Khmer kampuchea-Krom Federation as a first step.
  • Request the help of the Permanent Forum members and Madame Chair to set up a series of meeting with Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation, Montagnard Foundation and the Vietnam government so that we may begin the process of identifying our indigenous peoples in their respective areas. Only through such dialogue can the needs of our indigenous peoples become visible and the achievement of the MDGs become a collaborative aspiration by all.

    Thank you.

KKF Intervention on Vietnam Government Speech

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Wednesday 30 April 2008
Speech given by Mrs. Somalin Thach

Land is our life, when you take our land you take our life. Today, landlessness is becoming a rampant issue, with many being forced to find other means of survivals, majority of which are not traditional methods of survivals. Due to lack of Vietnam government financial support for the Khmer Krom, Montagnard, and other Indigenous Peoples, migration to the cities has increased.

Lack of job opportunities, increase land confiscation, and failed crops have forced hundreds of thousands of Khmer Krom to migrate to Prey Nokor (Ho Chi Minh City) or across the border to Cambodia. As a result many fall into dangerous traps: sex trafficking rings and forced labour.

For the last four years, since we have joined the forum, all we have heard from Vietnam is the denial of our positive contributions to the Permanent Forum. We thank Madame Chair’s immediate intervention and Special Rapporteur’s ongoing efforts to communicate with States-of-Concern on legitimate claims, and agree that it is time for Vietnam to do more than continue to deny our genuine voice of the indigenous peoples of Vietnam at the forum.

We, members of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation are here today because our people are not allowed to represent themselves in our respective homelands. If Vietnam does not want us to be here, then why is there not a single indigenous representative group from Vietnam here today?

The State’s accusation that our information provided to the forum is falsified. Our interventions are facts assembled by recognized reliable and independent sources such as on Human Rights Watch reports, and the US State Department Human Rights annual reports.

The Vietnamese government has wrongfully accused KKF and MFI of being separatists in order to undermine our credibility, discourage the international community from supporting our organizations, and to convince the UN State Members to sit passively by while Vietnam annihilates us, the Khmer Krom people and the Degar people, who are the original occupants and indigenous peoples of these lands. All we have ever wanted is for the Vietnamese government to respect our rights as humans and as indigenous peoples, which their government affirmed in articles 3 and 4 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

You the settlers accuse us of being separatists. How can we separate from our own homeland? We have never left our land. We are still here after all of the abuses. We are the evidence of the colonialism, not the problem. We would love to live in our homeland together with all people and work together for a better future in Kampuchea Krom for all future generations.

However, we can’t even get the government to begin the first step to meet. If they would meet we would purchase our airfare to return and begin reconciliation.

Vietnam says that our participation is a distraction to the Permanent Forum and governments around the world. This statement is really insulting and an illustration of the lack of respect we receive in our own homeland where we are despised by the officials.

Today, We ask for the support of our indigenous brothers and sisters of the world, government and UN agencies to show to Vietnam that we are indeed making a positive contribution.

Vietnam needs to commit more than just rhetoric and repeated statements,we need the dialogue you Madam chair suggested. We are extended a hand of human rights, reconciliation and peace in our region of Asia to the Vietnam government. Will they accept a historic meeting this week or will we repeat this scenario again next year while more Khmer Krom’s lives worsen?

Also ask Vietnam to extend an invitation to the UN special rapporteurs that focus on areas covered by the agenda of the UN PFII such as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Special Rapporteur on Health etc.

Madame Chair, Forum Members, and the indigenous peoples of the world, I thank you for your support and solidary.

Terriorities, Lands and Natural Resources by Romy Thach

Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
14-25 May 2007 at UN Headquarters, New York City
Delegation: Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
Special Theme: Territories, Lands and Natural Resources
Speaker: Romy Thach

Madame Chair,

We would like to congratulate you on your reelection as chair of the UNPFII. We also would like to thank you for visiting our community in exile at the temple in Cambodia in February. Our people that have been forced from our homelands were pleased to meet a member of the international community that cares about our struggle for self-determination.

We will begin with recommendations to ensure our connection to our sacred homelands in the face of dire circumstances denying our identity.

  • KKF seeks the assistance of the United Nations mechanisms for conflict prevention and reconciliation to encourage Vietnam’s recognition of the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples of Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Without doing so, we feel that Vietnam does not fully appreciate the importance of land for the basic survival of the Khmer Krom people.
  • Request the assistance of IOM to work with the Vietnam government to initiate programs to resolve land claims and ensure that the indigenous Khmer Krom people are compensated for their lost of farmlands as well as a return to own land. There are many land claims since 1970. Ask for return of our ancestral lands and properties that were unlawfully taken away by the State and by the Vietnamese newcomers.
  • Ask that Vietnam adopt a national act to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples in Vietnam to their traditional lands and territories specifically the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples linked historically and spiritually to the Mekong Delta. Create and implement non-discriminatory indigenous land laws that respect and protects the lands of the Khmer Krom people and prevent further acts of illegal land grabbing by Vietnamese authorities.
  • Ask that IFAD fund a project to allow Khmer Krom farmers to return to their fields to produce traditional foods for their community. Canal projects that allow salt water into fresh water rice farming area must be stopped immediately to avoid destroying more of Khmer Krom’s land.
  • Request the assistance of UNITAR to provide essential training for the Asia region to enhance conflict resolutions and peace building capabilities between governments and indigenous peoples.
  • Seek the assistance of UNDP to promote and ensure that the indigenous peoples are presented in all decision making for positive programs focusing on reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals for the Khmer people
  • Seek the support of international agencies such as FAO and WHO to provide assistance to examine polluted land to determine its source that has caused thousands of blind farmers and to return the farmers to their traditional land to provide the fundamental nutrition for our peoples. Ask that Vietnam start implementing more effective local systems of monitoring the use of pesticides and their damage to the ecosystem in our homeland.
  • Ask that UNESCO help preserve the sacred sites for all of humanity to share under the UNESCO World Heritage program. One of the first locations that immediately needs protection to preserve Sambua Rangsey temple which was built in 373AD at Tra Khao commune, Hoa An Village, Cau Ke district, Tra Vinh province.
  • Billions of dollars of profit from oil and natural gas extraction in our homeland and our sea at Ocap (renamed Vung Tau) province must cease going to the multinational corporations and corrupt state agencies and develop a program that ensures the collective economic well being of the Khmer communities’ standard of living.
  • Ask that Vietnam start recognize and implement the policy of free, prior and informed consent when implementing programs that encourages participation and consultation with the local Khmer-Krom on all future development projects which take place in their homeland.

Madame Chair, we are convinced that the above measures will improve the living conditions of the Khmer Krom people living under extreme poverty. Such recommendations will help Vietnam achieve Millennium Development goals.

Lastly, we would like to reaffirm our support for the adoption of the Declaration on Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.

Thank you.

Item 4(a): Economic and social development by Sothy Kien

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Item 4(a): Economic and social development
Speaker: Sothy Kien

Joint Statement with Montagnard Foundation and the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation

Madame Chair,

We would like to propose the following recommendations for the effective implementation of the MDGs:

  • That Vietnam recognizes the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta rather than just another ethnic minority group.
  • Ask that Vietnam provides a detail summary of specific policies or programs targeting indigenous peoples that are currently taking place or proposed in their Five Year Socio-Economic Development Plan.
  • The creation of education campaign in Khmer language about the MDGs as well as international human rights instruments such as CEDAW so IPs can be aware of their fundamental freedoms.
  • That the consultation and implementation of such national plans are conducted with indigenous groups and local people to ensure that such programs does not erode their ancestral lands and tradition.
  • Request the aid of the World Bank and IMF to allocate specific funds donated to Vietnam to create vocational programs in the local areas where million of the indigenous Khmer Krom people of the Mekong Delta and the Montagnard of the Central Highlands live.
  • Ask that Vietnam work in close collaboration in genuine partnership with specialized agencies and KKF and other recognized indigenous organization to start identifying who are the indigenous peoples.
  • Ask that victims of the State’s failed or disastrous projects including ones result in contaminating land with salt be immediately compensated to provide the basic living essentials and to halt the influx of Khmer Krom people being forced to move to other cities to find employment.
  • Ask the assistance of United Nations and other governments to encourage Vietnam to adopt the ILO 169 Convention.
  • Request the aid of FOA, ILO and Vietnam to help provide other employment opportunities for the many local Khmer Krom people who are landless or are faced with salt contaminated land.
  • Ask that all special inter-agencies to open workshops during the UNPFII to allow for more effective input and feedback from indigenous organizations about policies and programs in their area of particular concern.
  • Ask that Vietnam allows independent organizations to be formed to enable further social and cultural development of indigenous peoples.
  • Ask that projects to integrate the indigenous peoples into mainstream society be culturally appropriate and sensitive to their distinctive culture without eroding their sense of identity.

    While Vietnam has been recognized for its impressive economic growth in recent years, making 138.6 Billion USD in 2005, the rural areas where Khmer Krom people live does have a not proportional share of Vietnam’s social and economic progress.

    We are particular concern that the MDGs for indigenous peoples will not be met if Vietnam continues to undermine the positive contribution of our work at the Permanent Forum.

Item 7: Future work by Chantria Tram

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Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Item 7: Future Work
Joint Statement of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and Montagnard Foundation
Speaker: Chantria Tram

Chairman and Distinguished members of the Forum

We are saddened to hear about the common conditions indigenous peoples face regarding boarding schools. Yet, we are pleased to participate in seeking solutions for a new future for our children.

We recommend that Vietnam:

  1. Ensures that the standards of these specialist boarding schools be equal to those of mainstream public schools.
  2. Permits arts and literature to be taught in our languages to safeguard and protect our cultures.
  3. Permits our histories to be taught in both mainstream public schools and boarding schools.
  4. Increases the number of places in all boarding schools and ensures unbiased geographical dispersion of new schools to ensure education for all is not a dream dependent on ethnic background.

Chairman and Distinguished members of the Forum

It is a great honor for me to speak at the 9th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and provide suggestions to be incorporated into its future work. We cannot change the past but we can and most definitely should collaborate to work for a better future. We are the youth of the Khmer-Krom people.

We have great recommendations for the UNPFII, but a few key questions that we pose each and every year remain unanswered. We once again request clarification from the UNPFII in the hope that a heavy burden be lifted from our hearts.

Still today the Vietnamese government refuses to recognize us as indigenous people of Vietnam. Are our temples in Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh), Kleang (Soc Trang) and Moth Chrouk (Chau Doc) which are over 2000 years old, many years older than the existence of Vietnam itself not proof of a longstanding connection to our land? Is there a separate rule for Vietnam which states that our long history and distinct culture and tradition are worthless when designating indigenous status?

Unfortunately, this is the 6th year that we raise these concerns. We therefore recommend:

  1. That the Permanent Forum set up a half-day discussion on mechanisms for the representation of unrecognised and marginalised peoples who are not respected by their governments.
  2. That the Permanent Forum set up a Commission on the Definition of Indigenous People which then seeks an invitation from the Vietnamese Government.
  3. And that Vietnam accept our request to have open and constructive dialogue with the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation as proof of their commitment to protecting and promoting the rights of their own peoples..

We thank you Mr Chairman for allowing us to voice our concerns and offer our recommendations. We extend the hand of friendship and respect to those willing to enter into dialogue with us. We hope that 2010 marks the year that fruitful collaboration commences so that we find ourselves in a different position at the historic 10th Session next year.

We come here for the past 6 years to learn and try to understand ways to help our youth at home, where they are silenced and living in fear due to the human rights violations. During this time, NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and governments recognize the human rights violations in international law. I humbly ask again, If we are not here to represent our youth today at the UNPFII, who will? Vietnam has wanted to silence us; however we sincerely will continue speaking the truth. It is sad and awkward that the Vietnamese government keeps on denying our very existence and trying to make us invisible yet we are invincible just like our brothers and sisters attending the UNPFII.

Response statement by Vietnam Government, Mr. Nguyen Tat Thanh, Deputy Permanent Representative,

Statement by
Mr. Nguyen Tat Thanh, Deputy Permanent Representative,
Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to the United Nations at the Sixth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

New York, 18 May 2007

Agenda item 4:
Implementation of recommendations on the six mandated areas of the Forum and on the Millennium Development Goals:
(a) Economic and social development;
(b) Environment;
(c) Health;
(d) Education;
(e) Culture;
(f) Human rights;

Madam Chairperson,

My Delegation wishes to congratulate you on your re-election as Chairperson of this Forum. Our equally warm congratulations go to the other members of the Bureau.

With a view to ensuring that the current economic growth benefits all groups of the population, in formulating and implementing socio-economic development policies and programmes, the Government of Viet Nam always takes steps so that they address the particular needs of disadvantaged groups of the population, including the 53 ethnic minorities who live in mountainous and remote areas and make up 12 % of the country’s population.

To achieve sustainable development for mountainous environment it is necessary to ensure harmony and balance between economic growth, social justice and environmental sustainability, and to preserve the cultural identity of all ethnicities. Therefore current priority areas are as follows:

    • To improve the livelihood and progressively meet material and spiritual needs of ethnic minorities, first and foremost, through poverty reduction and job generation programmes, especially for the most poverty-stricken areas. To improve access to basic services such as transportation and road system, irrigation, electricity, water, schools and clinics with a view to ensuring the balanced and realistic development among regions and ethnicities towards harmonious development contributing to the narrowing of development gaps among regions and groups of population. Pursue economic development as the focal task and the means to enhance the quality of life for ethnic minorities while observing the principle of social harmony, sustainable exploitation of natural resources and environment protection.
    • o maintain close linkage between socio-economic development and environment protection. Protect and improve the environment as an indispensable element of development and a must in all socio-economic development strategies, policies and programmes through measures of reasonable exploitation and preservation of resources such as forest, land, water, fauna, flora and genetic resources.
    • To ensure that socio-economic development is not detrimental to the particular and distinguished identity of traditional culture of mountainous ethnicities, by preserving and enriching cultural life of people through, inter alia, studies and preservation of the traditional culture of villages and communes, assisting the organization of various individual or joint cultural events, increasing the radio and television coverage in minority areas with increasing components in ethnic languages.
    • To undertake measures to encourage the participation of the people in identifying their needs, developing and implementing plans and monitoring and assessing their progress, especially the participation of women, local mass organizations and traditional communal organizations in all activities affecting the life of the people concerned.
    • To improve access to healthcare for ethnic minorities through providing free health insurance and some healthcare services, through conducting expanded vaccination programmes with a view to preventing diseases, and through minimizing the number of communes without clinics. As of present 96% of communes have their own clinics and vaccination coverage has reached over 90% and efforts are currently undertaken to ensure less accessible, remote mountainous areas also benefit from these programmes.
    • To develop human resources and pay greater attention to education and training through providing incentives in the enrollment of and support for ethnic students. Currently 8 ethnic writing systems are taught in schools nationwide including HMong, Cham, Bahnar, Jrai, Khmer.

To further implement land, housing and water policies (such as Decisions132 and 134 of 2002 of the Prime Minister for the Central Highland ethinic population) to ensure that every family has their own land for living and farming, adequate, durable and safe housing and individual or shared water supply.

Along this line, the Programme on Socio-Economic Development of communes with special difficulties in mountainous and ethnic minority areas (Programme 135) launched in 1998 has been extended until 2010 on the basis on its success stories and lessons learned. The current phase of Programme135 aims at considerably improving the production and income generation, infrastructure including transportation and irrigation systems, building schools and clinics at all communes, providing electricity and clean water, increasing enrollment rate at schools, providing free legal assistance and capacity building with a view to facilitating monitoring of investments and other activities by communities in their areas.

Madam Chairperson,

Before concluding, my Delegation feels compelled again to state our objection to the participation in this august body by entities, such as Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation, who have been engaging in separatist activities against the State of Viet Nam, including through, inter alia, spreading false information that my Delegation has always rejected. Such actions by these entities and individuals would only negate the effect of efforts by this Forum and my Government toward the betterment of all people on the ground.

Thank you for your attention.