Item 7: Urbanization and Migration of indigenous peoples

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Joint Statement by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
Item 7: Urbanization and Migration of indigenous peoples
Speaker: Sothy Kien

Madame Chair, 

Today’s agenda focusing on specific region of Asia and theme of Urbanization is a great opportunity to meet the aspirations of this forum to increase positive dialogue between the actors to protect human rights in partnership and meet the MDGs for our people.

While we know we have differences with the government, we desire a dialogue. We will practice our spiritual beliefs of compassion to agree to the proposed meeting between Vietnam and KKF.

We also agree with the inclusion of SR Stavenhagen as the government was responding to his report. If UNPFII chair Tauli-Corpuz can also assist, we believe we could arrange a series of dialogues that allow for us to return to the 7th UNPFII session with some positive direction to secure the fundamental freedoms in Asia, specifically in Kampuchea Krom of Vietnam.

Madame Chair, item 7 attaches significant for the Khmer Krom people as majority of our people are from the
rural areas of Vietnam. Traditionally farmers, the rich fertile Mekong delta has provided an essential source of food and survival for the indigenous Khmer Krom people. Recent canals projects initiated by Vietnam authorities have destroyed much of the rice fields by channeling salt water into fresh water farming, forcing thousands to abandon their home and
migrate to already crowded cities.

Like a domino affect, elevated levels of poverty, lack of education and landlessness has resulted in many Khmer
Krom women and young girls getting caught with trafficking rings and finding employment that violate their
culture and traditional lifestyles. We would like to recommend the following:

▪ Request that Vietnam consult indigenous peoples before creating canals projects on their ancestral lands by
the use of free and informed consent.
▪ Ask Vietnam to adopt the ILO 169 Convention to ensure the protection of Khmer Krom and Degar people
and in recognition of their vulnerability and poverty.
▪ Seek the assistance of UN-HABITAT to create initiatives to help provide adequate shelter and housing for
homeless Khmer Krom.
▪ Ask that Vietnam establish and implement national laws to protect lands of indigenous peoples from further
illegal land grabbing.
▪ Ask that Vietnam start taking serious and immediately actions to process land claims by indigenous peoples.
▪ Seek the help of Permanent Forum members to urge Vietnam to recognize the importance of the sacred
homeland of Kampuchea Krom to the Khmer Krom people. Also, that Vietnam work in collaboration with UN
agencies to recognize that the further taking of land results in the negative direction of indicators for the livelihood of indigenous peoples. Recognizing land and prevention of migration would assist Vietnam in reaching the
8 MDGs and also its obligation of human rights protection and promotion under international laws.

Madame Chair, Vietnam continues to deny the truth of our statement, in that regards, we would like to urge
Vietnam to read the latest report on the Church of Asia, UNPO, US commission on International Religious Freedom for the latest violation against the Khmer Krom people.

It is our sincere hope today will be a turning point in which a series of dialogues can happen so that the voice of
our peoples can be heard.

Thank You


Item 4: Economic and Social Development

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Seventh Session
Thursday, April 25, 2008
Speaker: Sothy Kien
Collective Statement by Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation and the Montagnard Foundation


Madame Chair,

We would like to say thank you to Vietnam and the other countries for taking the positive step of supporting the 13 September 2007 adoption of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, unlike many of our indigenous Native American and Native Canadian brothers and sisters, our people from Asia are not recognized at all.

We believe unless such recognition occurs, our people will continue to be denied our basic fundamental freedoms as guaranteed under the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. Already our rights are not realized. Future work will become irrelevant at the international level and for each individual Khmer if we are not recognized.

Taking advantage of the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we would like to request the help the Permanent Forum and governments around the world to help set up an appropriate timeframe for which countries who has not yet recognized its indigenous people to do so. The adoption must not only be superficial but substantive in the daily lives of indigenous peoples.

During Human Rights Council meeting last March, Vietnam announced that it was ready for human rights dialogue. For the last four years, we have affirmed the need of an open dialogue between Vietnam and the KKF on human rights at the Permanent Forum. Let us make a historic moment and start a human rights dialogue here today.

We would to contribute the following recommendation to the Permanent Forum in regards to this item:

• Request the aid of the Permanent Forum to set up an open dialogue between Vietnam and KKF during a session on the Permanent Forum.

• Through such interactions, we can begin to look at ways in which we can initiate the process of recognizing the Khmer Krom people and the Montagnard as indigenous peoples and explore effective mechanisms to ensure that they are included in free and informed decision making processes affecting Khmer communities.

• Ask that Vietnam provides a detailed summary of specific policies or programs targeting Indigenous Peoples that are currently taking place or proposed in their Five Year Socio-Economic Development Plan.

• That a national education campaign is established in Khmer language about the MDGs as well as international human rights instruments such as CEDAW, so our Khmer-Krom people are aware of their basic rights and able to be active participants.

• That the consultation and implementation of such national plans are conducted under the principles of free, prior and informed consent with indigenous groups and local people to ensure that such programs do not destroy the ancestral lands and compromise our traditions

• Request that the aid from the World Bank and IMF to allocate specific funds donated to Vietnam to create vocational programs in the local areas where millions of the indigenous Khmer Krom people who are living in the Mekong Delta.

• Ask that Vietnam work in close collaboration in genuine partnership with specialized agencies and KKF and the Montagnard Foundation to meet mutual objectives.

• Seek a reversal of current trend of urbanization and Vietnamization. KKF ask that victims of the State’s failure or disastrous projects that result in contaminating land be immediately compensated to provide the basic living essentials and to halt the influx of Khmer Krom people being forced to move to other provinces to find employment.

• Request the aid of FAO, ILO and Vietnam to help provide employment opportunities for many local Khmer Krom people who are now finding themselves landless as result of land confiscation by corporations and the country of Vietnam.

• Ask that all special inter-agencies be open to workshops in Kampuchea Krom and where our people live in large diaspora around the world to allow for more effective partnership from indigenous organizations about policies and programs taking place in our homelands

• Ask that Vietnam allows independent organizations to be formed to enable further social and cultural development of indigenous peoples.

• Ask for projects that will integrate the indigenous peoples into mainstream society be culturally appropriate and sensitive to their distinctive culture without eroding their sense of identity.

• While Vietnam is recognized as Asia’s second fastest growing economy in recent years with GDP annually increasing over 8% and making 138.6 Billion USD in 2005, the rural areas where Khmer Krom people are living, does not have a proportional share of Vietnam’s social and economic progress. The KKF remain behind as we are deemed backward by the Vietnam government. We demand to be equal partners for the economic and social development of our homeland.

We are particularly 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.

Thank you Madame Chair

Terriorities, Lands and Natural Resources by Romy Thach (2)

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.

“KKF a distraction to Permanent Forum” Says Vietnam

In response to joint statement made by Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and the Montagnard Foundation, Permanent Mission of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam representative has given a speech to the Permanent Forum on Monday 28th April 2008 during the special item on Human rights: dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people and other special rapporteurs.

“The work of the PFII should be based on accurate information. Unfortunately, it has not been provided,” stated the Vietnam government representative.

“We strongly object to the participation of the KKF who are based outside Vietnam and try to claim representation. The information provided cannot be seen as objective and relevant.”

“The participation [of KKF and the Montagnard Foundation] only creates distraction that could have been offered to indigenous peoples around the world, PFII members,” says Vietnam government representative.

For over 4 years, Vietnam government has reaffirmed that KKF and the Montagnard Foundation should not be given the right to speak about Vietnam, claiming that the above indigenous organisation bring false information to the Permanent Forum.

This year, Vietnam states that such organisations are only creating a distraction to the Permanent Members.

If KKF does not bring the issue of Khmer Krom to the Permanent Forum, will Vietnam really do so?

Full speech by Vietnam representative is currently unavailable. It does not openly distribute its statement like most democratic governments however; KKN will endeavour to obtain the full speech in the next few days.

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

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.


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.

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


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


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


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.