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.