This first book to be written in English about the Khmer-Krom will be a vital tool to increase international understanding and awareness of the history and culture of a unique community. The Khmer-Krom have undergone a long history of oppression and exploitation. A combination of conflict over land ownership and colonial influence has divided their ancestral territory between Vietnam and Cambodia, weakening the collective bargaining power of their people and their ability to protect their rights. Moreover, oppressive policies have left the people of Khmer-Krom striving to preserve their identity and their cohesion as an indigenous group. This highlights just how crucial it is to record and disseminate this clear and comprehensive portrayal of a people to safeguard their future generations.
Perhaps the most significant challenge for the Khmer-Krom is that they are not well known outside their immediate regions. The basic and most important challenge therefore is to disseminate facts about the community’s history and current situation. This is precisely what motivates the endeavors of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). The UNPO works in partnership with indigenous peoples, minorities and under-represented or marginalized groups to provide them with an entry point to mainstream international platforms and to facilitate their participation in the decision-making processes which affect them.
The inaugural collaboration between the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and UNPO was a conference in 2002 designed to raise awareness of the Khmer-Krom within the Mekong Delta. This momentous conference led to the first historic appearance of the Khmer-Krom on the international stage as representatives addressed the 2004 UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues.
Although aims and contexts vary dramatically between UNPO Members, it is evident that cross-cutting themes apply across the board, demonstrating unity in the aspirations of marginalized communities. The value in acting as a network cannot be underestimated in the endeavor to reformulate and broaden the concept of self-determination.
Today, the publication of this book marks a further crucial step towards the recognition of the people of Khmer-Krom and their struggle towards freedom, democracy, rule of law and self-determination. UNPO would like to express solidarity with the people of the Khmer-Krom in their campaign to secure human, civil and political rights, and widespread representation and recognition.
By encouraging discourses, this book opens spaces for dialogue where all other forums are closed.
(Mr. Marino Busdachin is UNPO General Secretary. Little background about him can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marino_Busdachin)