Vietnamese Authorities Sentence four Khmer-Krom Farmers to Prison
UNPO strongly condemns the sentence of Mr. Huynh Van Dep , Mr. Tien Dam, Mr. Tien Nam, and Mrs. Thi Pich to up to two years and a half in prison under the article 330 of the Vietnamese penal code and calls for their immediate release
As UNPO reported last may 5th 2020, the Vietnamese police attacked Khmer-Krom farmers to prevent them from working on farmland in the southern Mekong Delta.
The Khmer-Krom have been farming the land since 1970’s, and have been witnessing the confiscation of their lands and are often not permitted to cultivate under the pretext that the area is a part of a conservation.
When the police arrived, a protest against the confiscation of the land and farming equipments started and at least 10 farmers were injured. In response to this incident, a group of Khmer- Krom farmers filed a complaint against the Vietnamese authorities for the excessive use of power and land confiscation, but to no avail.
One month after the incident, on Jun 7th the Vietnamese authorities sent fifty police officers this time to arrest people for their alleged role in leading the protest of the 5th of May.
According to the information reported, six members of a family were arrested, among them a woman who had gave birth only a month ago. After hours of interrogation and intimidation, five of the detainees were released, Mr.Huynh Van Dep however, remained in the custody of the Vietnamese police for the next three months.The Vietnamese police later detained three other Khmer-Krom farmers in relation to the protest including Mr. Tien Dam, Mr.Tien Nam and Mrs.Thi Pich.
On December 3rd, these individuals were brought to trial and were charged with “resisting a law enforcement officer in performance of his/her official duties” under article 330 of the Vietnamese penal code.
Mr. Huynh Van Dep (born 1979) was sentenced to two years and six months in prison.
Mr. Tien Dam (born 1992) was sentenced to two years and three months in prison.
Mr. Tien Nam (born 1992) was sentenced to one year in prison.
Mrs. Thi Pich (born 1956) was sentenced to one year probation.
Vietnam does not recognise Khmer-Krom as an indigenous population although
the Khmer-Krom people have inhabited the south-western part of the Indochinese peninsula since 4,290 years BC. Khmer-Krom population is estimated at 7 million. Land ownership is among one of the most important challenges faced by this indigenous population. Khmer- Krom similar to all the indigenous communities are deeply connected to the land and support themselves by farming. Following the Land Reform Acts of 1975 which eliminated land possession, the land was distributed among the other part of the population. The Khmer- Krom inhabited mainly in Mekong Delta, and only small amount of their lands were returned to them by the Vietnamese authorities.
Linguistic restrictions, lack of freedom of religion, environmental problems, and enforced disappearances are only some of the problems faced by this community.