Khmer Krom: Touring the World for the Khmer Krom
Interview with Thach Thach, 31 January 2006
Who knows five languages, travels the world advocating for human rights and can most often be found as a caretaker in Weldon Library?
That would be 17-year Physical Plant employee Thach Thach (pronounced "Tatch").
Thach's work with the international organization Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) will take him off-campus and around the world over the next six months in an effort to improve the lives of Cambodians in South Vietnam. Kampuchea-Krom was the southernmost territory of the Khmer Empire and means "Cambodia Below".
He will participate in several international conferences involving the International Court, United Nations' organizations, international governments and the Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. The conference is so in-depth it takes place over six weeks.
Thach, 50, immigrated to Canada in 1988. He says he can now celebrate his human rights and Cambodian culture in a way not previously possible while living in an oppressed area of South Vietnam - home to more than seven million Khmer Krom, the indigenous people of Southern Vietnam.
"When I came to Canada, I saw how people were treated different [than in Cambodia]," explains Thach. "It made me want to do something for human rights back home".
"In South Vietnam, Cambodians represent the minority population and oppression by the Vietnamese is prevalent" he says. Thach and the KKF will visit New York to oversee editing of a UN documentary film that explores the situation.
There will also be visits to British Columbia, various U.S. states, Australia and Holland. Thach will return to Geneva in July to participate in a UN sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on Indigenous Populations.
Thach has been involved in many volunteer positions including the RCMP, City Hall, London Police and the OPP. He says he knew nothing about the groups before volunteering.
"I just went down to see if they needed help," says Thach. "You can't sit at home complaining you don't know English enough or what to do - just go."
Thach left Cambodia with a bachelor of literature degree but in Canada he had to start over. He completed high school, then graduated three years ago from Western's Administrative and Commercial Studies Program.
"You may start with a job you don't like but you can do more by getting involved and volunteering," says Thach. "This is my fun."
Thach feels people like him must get involved and make a difference for those who need help. "If you don't say anything, you get nothing. It's about freedom."
"I want to send a message to people inside the country [Cambodia]. They have to educate themselves. We hope people demand the government in a peaceful way, don't use violence... we seek the international community to put pressure on government to end oppression".
The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation represents over eight million people worldwide.
Thach is president of Khmer Krom Network which is a technology and Internet working group. For more information visit: www.khmerkrom.net