UNPO Report to the UN CESCR on Discrimination and Religious Oppression in Viet Nam
In March 2014, UNPO submitted an alternative report to the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, outlining the widespread violations of the economic, social and cultural rights of the Hmong, Degar and Khmer Krom in Viet Nam.
UNPO submitted an alternative report in relation to the 53rd pre-sessional working group of the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) regarding the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. In May 2014, the pre-sessional working group will convene to identify the main issues in Viet Nam and draft a list of questions that Viet Nam will be required to answer prior to the regular 53rd session of the CESCR in November 2014. The full report can be accessed by clicking on the link under “Attached Documents” on the right.
The report focuses on the situation of the Degar, Hmong and Khmer Krom groups in Viet Nam and the Vietnamese government’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The key issues that the report focuses on are the religious oppression and discrimination, arbitrary arrests, confiscation of land, reallocation, harassment, poverty and lack of education that indigenous and minority groups face in Viet Nam.
Despite international calls to improve the treatment of indigenous and minority groups, Viet Nam still enforces discriminatory policies. One of the most illustrative examples is the Ordinance on Religion and Belief that the government adopted in 2004. This law criminalizes all religions that are not approved by the government and grants security forces large discretionary powers to arrest and detain people on the basis of practicing or “spreading” such religions. The Vietnamese government has used this law to limit the religious and cultural rights of the Khmer Krom, Degar and Hmong.
The UNPO report also points out that the Hmong, Degar and Khmer Krom are among the most marginalized in Viet Nam. Poverty, illiteracy and school dropout rates are the highest among these groups. Recent efforts to develop certain economic sectors, such as bauxite mining and hydroelectricity, have particularly affected indigenous and minority groups in the Central and Northern Highlands. With the establishment of the projects, large portions of indigenous land has been seized or polluted, while many indigenous groups have been inadequately relocated. In the Mekong Delta, confiscation of fertile ancestral lands has particularly affected indigenous groups, taking away their main source of subsistence and leading them further into poverty.
The alternative report concluded with the following recommendations to the government of Viet Nam:
1. Recognize the Khmer Krom and the Degar as indigenous peoples of Viet Nam, and respect the distinct right afforded to them by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
2. Ensure a higher political representation of the Khmer Krom, Degar and Hmong at the local and national levels.
3. Investigate and end uncompensated confiscation of indigenous lands.
4. Take immediate action to monitor and stop corporate industrial activities that are harmful for the environment and its inhabitants, and develop an adequate legal framework for environmental protection.
5. End resettlement policies of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples.
6. Take immediate action to end arbitrary arrests of religious and spiritual leaders, as well as human and land right activists.
7. Implement the housing registration system without discrimination and issue identity documents to everyone regardless of their faith.
8. Develop poverty-alleviation programs specifically targeting regions and communities where regional ethnicities reside, focusing on the needs of indigenous peoples.
9. Address the significant disparity in health and living standards between regions populated by minorities and majorities, including providing remote geographical areas with adequate health care facilities and fighting child malnutrition.
10. Investigate the health effects of the bauxite mining projects in the Central Highlands.
11. Increase opportunities for instruction in minority languages in primary and secondary schools.
12. Take action against the lack of enrolment and the high dropout rates from primary and secondary schools among the indigenous and minority groups.
13. Allow all independent religious organisations to freely conduct religious activities and govern themselves.
14. Amend the laws that criminalize religions not recognized by the government.
15. End campaigns aimed at reducing the followers and the spread of minority religions.