Dec 17, 2007

Khmer Krom: Land Must Be Returned

Hundreds of Khmer Krom farmers are protesting to demand the return of ancestral land, arguing that they do not wish to disrupt Vietnamese society but merely want Vietnam to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Hundreds of Khmer Krom farmers are protesting in front of government offices to demand the return of ancestral land, arguing that they do not wish to disrupt Vietnamese society but merely want Vietnam to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.

Below is a press release issued by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation:

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasted in Khmer and in Vietnamese, there are hundreds of the Indigenous Khmer-Krom farmers gathering in front of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam office located at 210 Vo Thi Sau, Phuong 7, Quan 3, TP HCM to demand the Vietnamese authorities return their confiscated farmlands.

Some of the farmers have claimed that they have filed complaints for decades and today receive no compensation or satisfactory results from the Vietnamese officials. The Indigenous Khmer-Krom farmers have been sleeping on the streets in front of the National Assembly since Friday night [07 December 2007] (Vietnam local time).

For many of the protestors, it was a long way for them to travel from their villages to Prey Nokor (Ho Chi Minh City) because the Vietnamese authorities tried to stop them from going to file the complaints at the office of the National Assembly. This is the third time that they have been forced to go to Prey Nokor. The Vietnam authority has promised to solve the issues, but did not take any follow up actions causing yet another peaceful protest to be conducted at this moment.

Instead of returning the confiscated farmlands to the Indigenous Khmer-Krom farmers, the Vietnam authorities are accusing those innocent Khmer-Krom farmers for disturbing the Vietnamese society. Protestors have claimed that Vietnamese authorities are threatening to arrest them if they do not return back to their villages immediately.

Testifying via RFA, a female Khmer-Krom farmer has appealed to international organizations, especially the United Nations to help them because they felt that they had no rights to live on their ancestral lands. They are farmers and yet all of their lands are confiscated. For centuries, the rich fertile lands of the Mekong Delta have been an essential element for the survival of the Khmer Krom people, providing plentiful food and water. Since Vietnam’s occupation of their lands, however, hundreds of thousands are finding themselves homeless and further entrenched in poverty.

Highly frustrated with Vietnam false promises, the protesters have said via RFA that they are willing to be killed if that was what takes for Vietnamese authorities to return their rightful land. Unwilling to comprise to the wishes of the protestors, Vietnam authorities are using intimidation tactics by sending the Vietnamese soldiers to the villages of the Khmer-Krom farmers to threaten their families.

On behalf of the Indigenous Khmer-Krom voiceless farmers, we seek your help in an international cooperation to urge Vietnam to respect the Human Rights of the Khmer-Krom people, especially the right to own their ancestral lands. Since Vietnam signed the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on September 13, 2007, it should show respect and implement the Article 26 of the Declaration “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories.”

If Vietnam did in fact take serious consideration into the land confiscation issues and implements appropriate and necessary policies, protests would not be a common occurrence. The protestors are not attempting to disturb the Vietnamese society as alleged by the Vietnamese authorities. The Khmer-Krom farmers are merely use a human rights instrument to bring to the surface a hidden problem that is a massive obstacle hindering them from living a fulfilled life as embedded in the Vietnamese constitution, international declarations and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

(Source: Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation)