Oct 17, 2011

UNPO Members Brief UN Committee On Violations Of Child Rights In Vietnam

Representatives of the indigenous Degar Montagnard and Khmer Krom met with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child last week to discuss its upcoming review of Vietnam 


Below is an article published by UNPO:


The 59th Pre-Sessional Working Group meeting of the Committee on the Rights of the Child was convened from Monday 10 October to Friday 14 October 2011 at United Nations Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.


The Committee met to begin its consideration of the report of Vietnam, among other states, and, as part of this, to have a dialogue with a number of non-governmental organizations that submitted alternative reports to the Committee.  


The Degar Montagnard Youth Group (DMYG) and the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) both submitted reports to the Committee focusing on the situation for children of their respective groups. Both reports focused particularly on poverty, insufficient education and violations of the freedom of religion – all issues that disproportionately affect Vietnam’s rural and ethnic minority populations.


Both the KKF and the DMYG delivered statements to the Committee, highlighting important issues from their reports.


Mr. Vien Thach of the KKF spoke about how the heavy monitoring of and restrictions on the activities of Buddhist temples on their traditional lands in the Mekong Delta negatively affects the ability of children to learn their own language and history.


Mr. Thach also turned the spotlight on how the Vietnamese government’s repressive policies affect the Khmer Krom children, who are denied any opportunity to freely express their thoughts or opinions in the public sphere, noting that “Khmer Krom children live in fear…they can get into trouble easily if they say something that could be framed as ‘undermining the government.’”


Representing the report of the Degar Montagnard Youth Group, Ms. H’Thaih Puih addressed the Committee on the extreme discrimination experienced by Montagnard Christian children in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Montagnard children are discriminated against in school because of their religion or ethnicity. They are also systematically blocked from moving to higher levels of education due to their religion.


Ms. Puih pointed out that in interviews conducted by the DMYG for their report, multiple children reported being directly expelled from school because of their religion or being told they could not advance in school unless they signed a document renouncing their affiliation with unregistered house churches. Some students even reported not being able to meet in large groups, even for studying sessions, as authorities were suspicious that they were forming political alliances.


Both groups also highlighted the significance of language barriers for ethnic minority and indigenous children in Vietnam. The Khmer Krom and Montagnard populations have their own languages, and the first encounter children from these communities have with the Vietnamese language is often when they enter school. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage, as they are forced to learn in a language they do not understand.


Poverty was another major issue highlighted by both groups. Despite widely-touted improvements in the overall socio-economic situation in Vietnam, ethnic minorities have largely been excluded from the country’s gains. Children from these groups continue to experience high rates of malnutrition, and are often forced to drop out of school at a young age because their parents can no longer afford to pay their school fees or because they need to find work to help support their family.


Following this meeting with NGOs, the Committee will draft a list of issues to be addressed in writing by Vietnam before its official review under the Convention on the Rights of the Child next year.