June 28, 2017

UNPO’s XIII General Assembly Adopts Resolution on the Khmer Krom

Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra @flickr.com

On 27 June 2017, a representative of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) presented its resolution to the UNPO General Assembly. Mr Vien Thach raised the human rights violations suffered by the Khmer Krom, stressing the disregard for their freedom of belief and religion in particular. The UNPO General Assembly adopted the resolution, thus affirming its support to the Khmer Krom people and the promotion of their fundamental rights.

On the occasion of the 13th General Assembly of the UNPO and on behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), we would like to bring to your attention regarding the latest Human Rights abuses that our unfortunate Khmer-Krom people living in our homeland, Kampuchea-Krom (Southern Vietnam), are facing.

Living in a one-party Communist state, our Khmer-Krom people have been facing all kinds of oppressions, such as the human rights violations, the religious persecutions, social injustice and inequality as well as their racial discrimination against our Khmer-Krom identity.

As of today, the Khmer-Krom people are still not recognized as the Indigenous Peoples living on their ancestral land. Under the recommendations of four members of CERD at their session of February 2012 concerning the Khmer Krom status as Indigenous People, the chief of vietnamese delegation of 16 members says that they will bring this case to her government for examination. But no news since then. The Khmer Krom are not even allowed to be referred to as “Khmer-Krom” and being labeled as “Dân Tộc Thiểu Số Khmer” (ethnic minority Khmer). Vietnamese government does not allow Khmer-Krom to call their village, districts, and provinces in their Khmer language.

On 28th November 2014, a Khmer-Krom symbolic gate leading the entrance to our Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) Province was intentional demolished without consent or consultation of the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples living in the region. After the Khmer-Krom people using the social media to condemn what the Vietnamese government had done to their cultural heritage, the Vietnamese government promised that they would build a new one bigger and better with the new design of the Khmer architecture. As of today, there is no action by the government to rebuild the gate yet.

There are millions of Khmer-Krom people living in Mekong Delta, but they are not allowed to form an independent association to defend their fundamental rights. Their voices are really depending on the NGOs abroad, such as our organization, to help raise issues. Some of them were brave and stood up to defend their rights and consequently faced the imprisonment. In 2013, Two Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks, Venerable Lieu Ny and Venerable Thach Thuol were arrested, defrocked and imprisoned just because they demanded to teach the Khmer language and practice the Theravada Buddhism freely in their Buddhist temple in the Mekong Delta. Venerable Lieu Ny was released on May 21 this year after serving his 4 years term in prison. Venerable Thach Thuol is still being imprisoned because he was sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Recently, there is disturbing news on the social media regarding the land disputing between a Khmer-Krom temple and local Vietnamese families who built their houses illegally on the Khmer-Krom temple’s lands. The confiscated land belongs to the Khmer-Krom temple, named “Me Pang”, locating at the 4th commune, Phong Phu village, Cau Ke District, Tra Vinh Province (Ấp 4, Xã Phong Phú, Huyện Cầu Kè, Tỉnh Trà Vinh). Instead of helping to seek justice for the temple, the Vietnamese court of the Cau Ke District has used the tactic asking the temple for land title in order to claim the land ownership. The Khmer-Krom people believe that the temple’s land is the sacred land. No one can take away their temple’s land. The Khmer-Krom temples’ lands in Mekong Delta never have the land title. If the court of Cau Ke District uses tactic to ask the temple for the land title in order to resolve the disputing, then it clearly shows that the court definitely against the belief of the Khmer-Krom and violates the Article 24.2 of Vietnam Constitution: “The State respects and protects freedom of belief and of religion.”

In May 2017, the Khmer-Krom youths living in the Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) Province was summoned by the Vietnamese police to interrogate them because they wore the T-shirt that the logo designed by the Khmer-Krom youths of KKF. The main reason that the Vietnamese authority does not want the Khmer-Krom youths to wear that T-shirt just because of the wordings and message on it: “Khmer-Krom” and “Revitalization of our Khmer-Krom Identity through the implementation of UNDRIP”.

In this regards, we would like to ask the UNPO leaders for your support to urge the Vietnamese government to:

1. Recognize the term Indigenous Peoples instead of tactically saying that the term Indigenous Peoples and Minority are the same. In Vietnamese, the “Indigenous Peoples” is translated as “Người Bản Địa” and “Minority People” is translated as “Người Thiểu Số”. These two terms have clearly their own definition in Vietnamese. The term Indigenous Peoples is enshrined in the UNDRIP which Vietnam signed to adopt in 2007. It is not a political term that Vietnam has accused the Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam asking for recognizing of their rights as Indigenous Peoples.

2. Stop interrogating the Khmer-Krom youths who just wear the T-shirt that has a meaningful message to promote and preserve their Khmer-Krom identity through the implementation of UNDRIP. The Khmer-Krom youths should be allowed to freely wearing that T-shirt in their homeland in Mekong Delta.

3. Respect the sacred land of the Khmer-Krom temple. The Vietnamese government should investigate and help to return the temple’s land back to the Me Pang temple in Tra Vinh Province.

4. Rebuild the gate entrance to Preah Trapeang (Tra Vinh) Province that Vietnamese government demolished in 2014.

5. Allow member organizations of the Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders Network to freely and safely operating to protect and promote Human Rights in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government should not use its own law to arrest the human rights defender as the case of these two Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks, Venerable Thach Thuol and Venerable Lieu Ny. Venerable Thach Thuol is still currently being imprisoned. He should be released unconditionally.

To take a look at the Khmer Krom resolution, please click here.

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