The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) is a peaceful organization representing millions of voiceless Khmer-Krom people living in the Mekong Delta and its surrounding regions of current day Vietnam as well as thousands living in exile. KKF is a global organization ran by volunteers from around the world. Its human rights advocated activities are funded by donations from Khmer-Krom communities and the sympathizers across the continents.
What a year 2014 has been! From the Universal Periodic Review in February to our annual UNPFII, EMRIP to a successful Europe Mission in November, KKF has worked around the clock to keep the Khmer-Krom issues in the international spotlight.
This year has proved most challenging, but KKF has once again proven that it can rise to all challenges with it phenomenal force of dedicated and passionate volunteers across the world, working together to bring a voice for the millions of voiceless Khmer-Krom living in Kampuchea-Krom.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to highlight some of our activities at the local and international level to keep the world aware of our people’s issues. In February, Vietnam was up for its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and was questioned by 106 diplomats represented for their own countries. KKF was able to submit a Shadow report to the Human Rights Council prior to its review and lobbied with States in order for them to ask questions on our behalf. On June 20th, Vietnam rejected 45 key recommendations out of 227 relating to core fundamental human rights, such as freedom of press and express, Freedom of Religion and Association. The rejection of such key recommendations has shown the world that Vietnam does not fully obligate its commitment as a member of the Human Rights Council.
On November 12, 2013, Vietnam was elected to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) to uphold its commitments to promote and protect human rights as set forth in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251. Despite being a member for almost a year, Vietnam has not demonstrated a serious commitment to the protection or the promotion of human rights for people around the world. Instead Vietnam continues to violate the fundamental rights of the people living in Vietnam, especially the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples living in the Mekong Delta and its surrounding areas.
On June 20, 2014, Vietnam rejected 45 key recommendations out of 227 recommendations made by Member States during its Second Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held on February 5, 2014. The recommendations rejected contained important core fundamental human rights which the people in Vietnam need the most, such as freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of forming independent associations.
Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief was invited to visit Vietnam from 21 – 31 July, 2014. The last visit of former UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Abdelfattah was in 1998. In concluding his 10 days visit to Vietnam, Mr. Bielefeldt noted that “I received credible information that some individuals with whom I wanted to meet had been under heavy surveillance, warned, intimidated, harassed or prevented from travelling by the police.”
On behalf of Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, I would like to express deep appreciation to our monks, fellow compatriots, and foreign friends that joined us – this past June 8th at Pothivongsa Buddhist temple – in the 65th year commeration on the transfer of Kampuchea-Krom to be under the painful colonialism of Vietnam.
This successful event have greatly encouraged us. As a fighter in this non-violent struggle, I am especially encouraged to recieve the active support of international institutions and organizations, including the European Union.
The numerous contribution and recommendations from your Venerable Monks, community members, and foreign friends during this assembly will serve as a example of unity and cooperation that will help to awaken consciousness of Khmers to this painful history of colonialism, to remind Khmers of our painful struggle, and not be neligent so that history do not repeat itself anew.
In closing, I want to share with you all these pictures as memories and pray that all the sacred object of this world, follow and protect all of you. May you be met with happiness and prosperity always.
Open Questions and Recommendations for the 18th Session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue
Venerable Thach Thuol, Venerable Lieu Ny Facing Unjust Trial
On May 9, 2014, the U.S. Department of State released a Media Note regarding to the 18th session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue that will be held from May 12-13, 2014 in Washington DC. According to the Media Note, “Freedom of expression, rule of law, disability rights, freedom of religion, labor rights, and other human rights issues will be raised over the course of the two days.”
On behalf of the voiceless Khmer-Krom in Vietnam, we hope that the following questions and recommendations would be discussed frankly in the dialog:
Rights to Freedom of Expression, Press and Information
In its national report submitting to United Nations Human Rights Council on 8 November 2013, Vietnam claims that “The rights to freedom of expression, press and information are enshrined in the Constitution and laws…” Unfortunately, Vietnam continues to arrest and imprison bloggers.
Vietnam also claims that “By March 2013, there are 812 print newspapers and 1,084 publications…” 812 print newspapers and 1,084 publications”. In reality, there are no publicly-run or privately-run media operating in Vietnam. Human Rights documents are not even allowed to be distributed so the people can learn about their rights. For example, Vietnam allowed the UNDRIP to be translated to Vietnamese (http://www.na.gov.vn/nnsvn/upload/images/Attach/Quyen_cua_nguoi_thieu_so%20va%20ban%20dia.pdf), but this document is not allowed to be freely distributed in Vietnam. Thus, there are very few Indigenous Peoples that know about the existence of this document.
How does Vietnam guarantee Freedom of Expression if it continues to have the “Penal Code, Article 258” in its constitution?
In recognition of those who exercised their basic right to speak, will Vietnam release Venerable Thach Thuol who was sentenced for 6 years in prison in September 27, 2013 for conducting an interview expressing his concern about practicing Theravada Buddhism in fear?
On Sunday April 6th 2014, members of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) participated in the Annual Khmer New Year Celebration in Long Beach, California, USA.
Cladded in the colors of Khmer-Krom flag of red, blue and yellow, the procession was led by a group of Cha Yum performers dancing to the rhythm of the drums.
In front of the beautifully decorated float, stood a proud Oknha Son Kuy, one of the most renowned and recognized Khmer-Krom heroes from Kampuchea-Krom, who was behead by the Vietnamese Court of Hue in 1841 in exchange for the right of the Khmer-Krom people to live according to their culture, tradition and religion customs.
“We are proud and delighted to work in the collaboration with the Khmer Krom Association of Southern California, and the Khmer Krom Buddhist Temple in Long Beach, California to represent our Khmer-Krom,” says Mr. Prak Sereivuth, KKF Vice President.
A KKF Booth was also set up after the parade allowing visitors to come and ask questions about peaceful advocacy of the organization and the people it represents.
“There were American people as well as Cambodians who came and asked us about the Khmer-Krom map and to learn about our human rights issues,” says Mr. Prak Sereivuth.
Thousands of Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and people in Kampuchea-Krom are also flocking to their local temples to prepare and celebrate the Khmer New Year, a three day event celebrated by Khmer communities around the world from 14-16th of April 2014.
According to a report by the Voice of Kampuchea Krom (VOKK) on the 13-14th February 2014 a Khmer Grammar book that was published in Thailand and sent to Kampuchea Krom was seized by Vietnamese authorities and prohibited from distribution.
Entitled, “វេយ្យាករណ៍ខ្មែរសង្គ្រោះ” the Khmer Grammar book was originally written by Thach Ek in Kompong Spean (rename Cau Ke) District, Preah Trapeang (renamed Tra Vinh) province and was printed and published by Venerable Thach Chan Dara, a Khmer Krom Buddhist monk studying in Thailand.
The book was sent to be distributed to Khmer Krom teachers and students as a reference guide to the Khmer language. Upon its arrival in Kampuchea-Krom on the 13th of February 2014, 10 police officers began to ask questions in regards to who created the book, published it and how was it sent over. Two books were given to the local Vietnamese authorities so the content of the book could to be examined. However,the Vietnamese authorities returned the next day and confiscated all the books, stating that it was against the Vietnam law and that content of the book was not approved by the Vietnam Government and they were prohibited from distributing it.
“I have asked permission from the creator of this book to publish it because I thought it was important for our studies,” says Venerable Thach Chan Dara in the interview with VOKK.
Venerable Thach Chan Dara has expressed his concern over the confiscated books, stating that the book was about Khmer grammar and did not contain anything political content that would oppose the Vietnamese Government.
“There is nothing lawfully wrong about this book. It does not contain any political content, or go against the Vietnam government. It serves to promote and encourage students and teachers to read and learn more about our Khmer language,” Venerable Thach Chan Dara adds.
The creation and publication of Khmer books, history and culture continued to be closely monitored and prohibited by the Vietnamese Government. This example clearly shows that there are no Freedom of Press in Vietnam contrary to what what the Vietnamese government has stated in their recent Universal Period Review in Geneva on February 5th 2014.
On February 5, 2014, the Khmer and Khmer-Krom around the world, especially in Europe, under the leadership of KKF Chairman, Mr. Thach Vien and KKF President, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach, protested in front of the United Nations in Geneva to voice their concerns regarding to the human rights violations committed by the Vietnamese government against the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples.
Started from 2:30 PM, the same day, the United Nations Human Rights Council examined Vietnam for Second UPR cycle. Just like in the first cycle from 2009, Vietnam brought the whole team of 23 representatives, led by the Deputy Minister of Foreign affair, Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc, to defend its human rights record.
Vietnam: Tortue and Abuse of Political and Religious Prisoners, “Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam, January 2014.” — Excerpt From Congressman Chris Smith’s Report
The Vietnamese government continues to be an egregious violator of a broad array of human rights and is estimated to hold about 600 prisoners of conscience, including prominent faith leaders such as Father Ly and the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do. One of the points that is repeatedly raised in the hearings that I have held on human rights in Vietnam is that the authorities routinely torture people who are arrested for peacefully exercising their rights. The people of courage who should be celebrated for trying to help their country are instead imprisoned and further victimized by being tortured.
Rebuttal to the Article “Human rights for the development of the ethnic minorities“
By Hua Son
KKF Secretary General
First and foremost, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) is a legitimate not-for-profit and the non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the nonviolent civil rights movement which inspires and trains emerging Khmer-Krom leaders. We base our strengths upon the legacy of Khmer-Krom heroes, and the legacy of respected world leaders. The KKF provides the forum and the platform for the Khmer-Krom Youth the skills and the opportunities to speak up, to champion and to win positive changes for their communities.
We are not a “force” hostile to the Government of Vietnam (GVN). The KKF helps to raise awareness of and to speak up for what the voiceless Khmer-Krom people want and hopefully to work with the GVN to stop and eliminate the human rights violations. The GVN should promulgate and recognize the Khmer-Krom people as the Indigenous Peoples and respect their human rights.
The mission of KKF is, through the use of peaceful measures and international laws, to seek freedom, justice, and the right to self-determination as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNUDHR) and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) for the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples in Kampuchea-Krom (Mekong Delta region). The Khmer-Krom people are entitled to the equal protections under these international laws. The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation also seeks to improve the quality of life for Khmer-Krom people and their families.
The article under the title “Nhân quyền vì sự phát triển của các dân tộc thiểu số“ published by the Nhan Dan on 12/12/2013 with respect to the Khmer-Krom was distorted and misinformed in several respects:
The Khmer-Krom people are not ethnic minorities as classified by the Government of Vietnam. They are the Indigenous Peoples as defined and recognized by the United Nations.
The Khmer-Krom people and their descendants have been living, nurturing and cultivating on their ancestral land of Kampuchea-Krom since the first century. Their cultural identity, socio economic well beings and language are established long before the arrival of ethnic settlers, are separate and distinct from all other ethnic minority groups. The practice of colonialism and neo-colonialism is alive and continues to exist. This practice can only strengthen and prove that the people of Khmer-Krom are the Indigenous Peoples.
Contrary to the published policies and announcements, the GVN continues discriminations, intimidations, arbitrary arrests, imprisonments and harassments against the Khmer-Krom people and Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks.
While the GVN claims and promotes the “pilot” bilingual education, and the cultural shows, the educational and cultural contents often distorts the true historical facts of the Khmer-Krom people.
We respectfully request that the Government of Vietnam:
Immediately and unconditionally releases Venerable Lieu Ny, and Venerable Thach Thuol
Immediately and unconditionally releases Mr. Thach Phum Rich, and Mr. Tra Quang Tha.
Immediately and unconditionally releases Mrs. Ly thi Danh, Mrs. Lam thi Loan, Mr. Ly Minh Hai, and Mr. Tang Phola.
Allow the Khmer-Krom Theravada Buddhist Monks to freely organize as an independent religious association and to freely conduct religious activities in general.
First and foremost, on behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), I would like to wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year 2014.
2013 was such the best year for KKF. I would like to thank to KKF’s members and supporters around the world who worked tirelessly to make KKF’s 2013 plan successful. Regardless of difficulties that we faced in 2013, we were still being able to participate in meetings and conferences to bring the Khmer-Krom human rights violations to: Asian Forum, UNPFII, EMRIP, Pre-URP review, EU Parliament, US Department of State on International Religious Freedom, etc. The KKF’s members and supporters organized peaceful protests around the world to demand releasing our Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks who were arrested, defrocked, and imprisoned without fair trials.
The KKF’s works has had significant positive impact on demanding for the fundamental rights of our beloved Khmer-Krom. The Khmer-Krom flag has been continuously raised higher around the world to represent for the voiceless Khmer-Krom seeking for the right to self-determination.
We will continue our work and no one could stop us from helping our people. Our KKF members from around the world came to Orlando, Florida for KKF Year-end Meeting from 13-15, December 2013. The meeting was successfully concluded with the following resolutions for the KKF’s works in 2014:
1. INTERNATIONAL BEST PRACTICES
Strengthen Interrelationships among the KKF and other international NGOs including Indigenous NGOs;
Hold conferences in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand;
Accelerate the Self-Determination Goal through UN Human Rights Charter & Treaty Bodies and UN Indigenous mechanisms;
Work Smartly and Strategically with the international agencies of the United Nations, the European Union and ASEAN; and
Do advocacy work at national parliamentary assembly with elected representatives in own country.
2. KAMPUCHEA-KROM BEST PRACTICES
Build and Maintain the KKF’s Facebook pages by the KKF Youth Committee for informational and educational purposes;
Implement succession planning to the top leaders of the KKF, restructuring and adding additional responsibilities to current members with focus on the Khmer-Krom Youths;
Update Books’ Projects;
Build and Maintain the “Who is Who Khmer-Krom” Project.
3. CAMBODIA AND REGIONAL BEST PRACTICES
Visit three countries: Kampuchea-Krom – Cambodia – Thailand;
United Flower Festival to finish building in Wat Samaki Rangsei in Phnom Penh; and
Meet with Khmer-Krom Communities and Khmer-Krom’s Local Leaders in Cambodia.
May the New Year bring to our beloved Khmer-Krom in our homeland FREEDOM – JUSTICE – DEMOCRACY.