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