UNPO submits Universal Periodic Review Report and Letter to UN Special Rapporteur to highlight Ongoing Human Rights Violations Against Khmer-Krom in Viet Nam.
On 10 October 2023, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) submitted a report to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as part of the fourth Universal Periodic Review Cycle (UPR) focusing on the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The UPR highlights human rights abuses faced by the Indigenous Khmer-Krom community and underlines the lack of progress made by the Vietnamese government since the third cycle. Additionally, on October 28, UNPO submitted information to the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Development in anticipation of their upcoming country visit to Vietnam, scheduled for November 6 – 15, 2023.
The Khmer-Krom are an indigenous community residing in the Mekong Delta region of Viet Nam. They have a rich cultural and historical heritage, with a continuous presence spanning thousands of years in the region. The Khmer-Krom constitute one of the largest minority groups in Viet Nam, with an estimated population of around 1.2 million. They have their own distinct culture, language, and religious practices, primarily following Theravada Buddhism.
However, their cultural identity and rights have been subjected to various assimilation policies and challenges, particularly after the reunification of Viet Nam in 1975. This period witnessed significant government-led resettlement efforts and restrictions on various aspects of the Khmer-Krom way of life. Since then, the Khmer-Krom people have experienced limitations on their civil and political rights, including denying their indigenous status and restrictions on freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion, and language. All of these factors mentioned above contribute to and perpetuate the marginalized status of the Khmer-Krom community.
Since Viet Nam's last review in January 2019, there has been no discernible improvement in the situation. To UNPO's dismay, the situation on the ground has not only stagnated but has indeed worsened, with the majority of the concerns we previously raised in the third cycle remaining unresolved. In light of the regressive state of human rights abuses against the Khmer-Krom, the UNPO urges the international community to address the concerns raised in this submission and to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of human rights in Vietnam.
Accordingly, the UNPO presents the following recommendations to the Vietnamese authorities:
- Recognize and grant indigenous status to the Khmer-Krom of Kampuchea Krom in order to ensure access to relevant institutions, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the associated rights laid out in international instruments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Ratify Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and to implement the content of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007.
- Enable the formation and practice of independent associations, including civil society organizations, media and labour unions operated by Khmer-Krom representatives without government control or interference. This includes an independent media environment free from government censorship.
- Ensure freedom of expression and assembly is respected, in particular, by refraining from use of force against peaceful protestors, enabling peaceful demonstrations and terminating the use of national security provisions in Viet Nam’s penal code, as well as press and publication laws, to silence or criminalize dissent.
- Recognise the practice of the Khmer-Krom’s unique form of Theravada Buddhism and cease limitations on the practice of religion on the basis of national security considerations.
- Promote respect for the practice of their indigenous language among the Khmer-Krom community, including ensuring adequate Khmer instruction in schools, including multilingual language instruction in primary schools and within religious institutions.
In addition to Viet Nam’s last review, the UNPO recently provided the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Development with a information relating to the Khmer-Krom in lights of their upcoming country visit to Vietnam. In addition to providing the Special Rapporteur our report, 'Denied Recognition: Viet Nam’s Refusal to Acknowledge the Indigenous and Religious Rights of the Khmer Krom', which gives an in depth overview of the human rights violations encompassing not only civil and political rights but also economic, social, and cultural rights that the Khmer-Krom are deprived of, the UNPO also provided a small report focusing on Vietnam's (lack of) implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Khmer-Krom community's exclusion from participating in the SDGs process. This input will aid the Special Rapporteur in gaining a deeper understanding of the situation of the Khmer-Krom people before his visit to Viet Nam later this month.
Photo credit: Quang nguyen vinh