Every year, people around the world, especially the Khmer-Krom living abroad, enjoy celebrating the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on International Human Rights Day. The Khmer-Krom in the Mekong Delta are not allowed to celebrate this crucial event because their right to have rights that are enshrined in UDHR are being oppressed.

As an organization advocating for the fundamental rights of the voiceless Khmer-Krom who are the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) will celebrate the 71st Anniversary of the UDHR with its members and supporters at different locations around the world during the weeks of the International Human Rights Day. 

Following the theme “Standup for Human Rights” to celebrate the 71st Anniversary of UDHR, KKF requests the Vietnamese government to uphold its responsibility as a member state of the United Nations to allow the Khmer-Krom to enjoy the fundamental rights as enshrined in the UDHR, especially the following articles:

1. Article 15 – Rights to nationality 

As indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta, the Khmer-Krom simply asks to be recognized as the indigenous peoples and obtain the official name as “Khmer-Krom” instead of being labeled as “ethnic minority” and called as “Khmer Nam Bộ”.

2. Article 18 – Freedom of religion or belief

The Khmer-Krom practices Theravada Buddhism, whereas the Vietnamese practices Mahayana Buddhism. Instead of protecting and promoting freedom of religion or belief, the Vietnamese government has forced the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks to practice their religion under the controlled of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS), which is the Buddhist association that was created and is controlled by the government. 

The VBS has interfered and controlled how the Khmer-Krom practice their religion, such as: appointed the head monk for the Khmer-Krom temples; issued Buddhist monk ID for the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks that have only in Vietnamese; replaced the Khmer-Krom’s temple stamps with new stamps that have only Vietnamese; forced Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks to frequently attend the so-called “National Security Training” classes which have nothing to do with religion. 

Echoing the speech by Mr. ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, General-Secretary of the United Nations, at the event on religious freedom with the President of the United State, Donald Trump, at the UN Headquarters in New York in the September, Mr. Guterres said: “Looking around the world, we tragically know that this is not a reality for millions of people.  It is totally unacceptable in the twentyfirst century for people to face discrimination and intimidation for their beliefs.  The persecution of religious minorities is utterly intolerable.  The full scope of their human rights is guaranteed, and States have an obligation to implement policies that ensure their identities are respected and that they feel fully part of society as a whole.”

It is time for the Vietnamese government to stop persecuting religious freedom and allow the Khmer-Krom to freely organize their own Buddhist organization without interference from the government so they can practice their religion without fear.

3. Article 26 – Right to education

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese government has not done anything to promote preserving and publicly using the language of the indigenous peoples in Vietnam. Most of the Khmer-Krom children now cannot read and write Khmer fluently because they only learn a couple of hours per week in their public school. If the Khmer-Krom children want to learn their language, they have to go to study at their temples. Unfortunately, the government also has closed monitoring and event controlled of what the Khmer-Krom students learn at their temples without support from the government.

As of today, the Vietnamese government does not allow the Khmer-Krom to call the names of their villages, districts, or provinces in Khmer, but in Vietnamese. The government does not want the Khmer-Krom children to learn about the true history of their homeland because the Khmer name of each village, district, or province has a meaning and historical fact attaching to it.

The Vietnamese government should not keep implementing the assimilation policy against the Khmer-Krom. There are millions of Khmer-Krom living in the Mekong Delta. The Khmer language should be used in public as the second language in this area. If the government allows having a Khmer channel on the television, then the Khmer-Krom reporters should be allowed to call the villages, districts, and provinces in the Khmer names.

4. Article 27 – Right to take part in cultural, artistic and scientific life

There are thousands of Khmer-Krom youths dropping out of schools, leaving their beloved villages, to work in factories far away from home. During the Khmer-Krom special cultural events, such as celebrating Khmer-Krom New Year, the Khmer-Krom workers are not allowed to take off from work to come back to their village to celebrate their cultural events with their family and friends.

The Vietnamese government should have the policy to promote the cultural events of the indigenous peoples in Vietnam and allow the Khmer-Krom workers to have time off to participate in those events.

As Vietnam has been receiving foreign aids and supports in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, KKF would like to remind Vietnam in celebration of International Human Rights Day this year that:

  • Human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as in the absence of human dignity we cannot drive sustainable development. Human Rights are driven by progress on all SDGs, and the SDGs are driven by advancements on human rights.” 
  • “Today’s human rights violations are the causes of tomorrow’s conflicts.”