Item 7: Future work by Chantria Tram

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.

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