UNPFII 2009: Item 7 Future work


Eighth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Item 7: Future work
The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation
Speaker: Somalin Thach

Madame Chair,

The future work of the UN PFII is essential to our existence. The UN PFII is an important space for indigenous peoples of Asia to raise their rights and stand in solidarity for sustainable development that respects our cultural heritage. We have appreciated the new developments in the review process initiated this year with the UN specialized agencies thoroughly presenting their commitment to indigenous peoples. The emerging dialogue is and will continue to be very important in future sessions of the UN PFII.

We would like to suggest the following recommendations:

  • Ask that the Permanent Forum help to set up a half day discussion to possible mechanisms for the recognition of Unrecognised and represented peoples that are not respected by their governments.
  • 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 meetings 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.
  • Urge Vietnam to work in collaboration with UN specialised agencies such as UNESCO and UNDP to help translate the UNDRIP into the Khmer and Vietnamese languages and distribute to our people on the ground.
  • Reaffirm the need for a collaborative approach to create a National Plan of Action which includes a legal framework to recognise the Khmer Krom people as the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta region.

We are the indigenous peoples of the Mekong Delta. Our parents were forced to flee Vietnam because of the discriminatory system created against our people on basis of our identity and unique culture. Even after the decades of gross human rights violations, our relatives and elders remain in our homeland standing up and facing severe repercussions for doing exactly what we are doing here.

We speak here every PFII session in honor of our brave people silenced and living in fear due to the human rights violations recognized in international law by governments as well as NGOs such as Human Rights Watch. I humbly ask, If we are not here to represent our people today at the UNPFII, who will? Vietnam has wanted to silence us, however, we sincerely will continue speaking the truth.

I want nothing more but to live in my homeland as my ancestors have been speaking our indigenous language and practicing our unique cultural heritage. Unfortunately the tone and tactics in Vietnam indicate my homecoming would not be very welcoming.

Madame Chair, we strongly believe that it is time that Vietnam moves beyond the denial of our right to speak at this Permanent Forum and put into practice the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by its very own Constitution and the UN DRIP.

We ask that Vietnam open their minds as well as their hearts and embrace the spirit of working in partnership so that we can work together to better the lives of the Khmer Krom peoples.

With the world as our witness, I stand up for our voiceless women at home to lead by example and extend our hand of friendship, reconciliation and peace in the hope that we can finally live together in a culture of human rights. Will Vietnam make history today and accept our hand of trust? Let’s shake as young women of South East Asia for a future of freedom, respect and equality for all.

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