ខែ​តុលា 20, 2007

The People of the Mekong Delta

Filed under: Khmer Krom — khmerlander @ 9:33 ល្ងាច

An American Girl’s Point of View on Khmer Krom by Cythia Son

Four years ago, I had no idea who the Khmer Krom people were, much less what trials they were going through. I could not even point out their country on a map! We never learned about them in our history classes, we never heard about the daily persecutions of these people on the news, and we certainly never even seen a headline about the slow elimination of the indigenous people in the newspapers.

The closest thing we ever came to studying about Southeast Asia was one or two chapters on the Vietnam War; though, usually, we would skip that section of the book and learn about something more “important”.

When I met my husband three years ago, who happens to be Khmer Krom, he told me he was Vietnamese Cambodian. In my American mind, that told me his mother was probably Cambodian while his father was probably Vietnamese, or vise versa. Either way, I never really bothered with it. But, when the subject came up again in discussion, he told me he was actually Khmer Krom, which to him meant “Vietnamese Cambodian”.

I began asking him questions about his culture, most of which he could not answer because he could not remember. Although, he did tell me that when he was a child and was going to school, he was learning how to speak, read and write Vietnamese.

“If you were learning all that Vietnamese stuff,” I remember asking him, “then why do you only speak in Cambodian?”

“Because we fled the country when I was still very young,” he answered. The very thought of someone escaping from their own country could not be completely grasped in my mind. I was born and raised in the United States of America, which meant that I had my rights as a human being and they could never be revoked.

I wished to understand the severity of the Khmer Krom people and even to make my husband aware of his heritage. I went to the public library, ready to check out every book on the Khmer Krom people. To my surprise, there were absolutely no books, movies or even records! I went to every library in the county, my search only ending in disappointment.

After we went to Washington to visit my in-laws for the first time, I remember my husband’s mother inviting some Khmer Krom people over for lunch. When they arrived, they seemed very surprised that my husband had married an American white girl. Suddenly, the conversation turned to me.

“Do you know anything about the Khmer Krom,” one of the visitors asked me.

“They’re Vietnamese Cambodians, right?” That was my ignorant white girl answer.

He smiled at me, probably thinking how typical it was that I knew nothing about my own husband’s culture.

“Not quite,” he answered. He gave me a brief history lesson. A lesson that would spark my desire to throw myself into extensive research and do my part for my husband’s people.

The visitor taught me that the title Khmer Krom does not mean “Vietnamese Cambodian”. It means “Cambodians from below”. The Khmer Krom were the indigenous people of the Mekong River Delta, long before the Vietnamese arrived. In 1949, the Mekong delta was included in the state of South Vietnam, even though Cambodia protested, passionately.

During the Pol Pot era in the 1970s, the Vietnamese needed a real reason to invade Cambodia so they basically set up a trap for the Pol Pot regime to charge into. The attempt was a success for the Vietnamese as it opened the door for their army to invade Cambodia, illegally claiming the Mekong region as their own.

Now, several decades later, the Vietnamese government has denied the Khmer Krom people their human rights and continues to make everyday life difficult for them.

It sounded like something right from my high school American history books, relating to the losing battle the Native Americans fought against the Europeans. It horrified me but it also motivated me to dig deeper into this crisis that is practically unknown to the world.

Over the next three years, I would learn so many unbelievable things about the Khmer Krom that will never be erased from my mind. It angers me that the Vietnamese government, to this day, does not consider the Khmer Krom as civilized.

The Vietnamese believe they are doing them a favor by shoving their beliefs, teachings, and language down their throats as if they are spear-throwing savages. But, what they fail to mention is that the Vietnamese government is denying the Khmer Krom any affordable health care. They have also forbidden the publishing of their own books in their own language, the celebration of their holidays, their teachings and have even defrocked several Khmer Krom monks who dare to speak against this unfair government.

I have read, watched and listened to every story on the Khmer Krom and their history and I still feel that this is not enough. We need to do something more than just read about their suffering and watch their sad faces flip through the projector. They need the exact same rights we Americans have. The right to speak their language, the right to their own religion, the right to publish their books in their language, the right to teach their children of their proud history, the right to own their land, the right to speak against the government that squeezes the blood from their veins with every new generation. If something is not done soon, the Khmer Krom will not only fade away, but it will be as if they never existed.


Cynthia Son, The People of the Mekong (Khmer Krom Network, September 24, 2007), <http://khmerkrom.net/?q=node/971, retrieved October 20, 2007>.

The General Assembly Adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Filed under: Khmer Krom — khmerlander @ 9:04 ល្ងាច


New York, 13 September – Marking an historic achievement for the more than 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide, the General Assembly today adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the result of more than two decades of consultation and dialogue among governments and indigenous peoples from all regions.
“Today, by adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we are making further progress to improve the situation of indigenous peoples around the world,” stated General Assembly President Haya Al Khalifa.
“We are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warmly welcomed the adoption, calling it “a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world.”
He further noted that “this marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples reconciled with their painful histories and resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.”
Adopted by the Human Rights Council in June 2006, the Declaration emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. It establishes an important standard for eliminating human rights violations against indigenous peoples worldwide and for combating discrimination and marginalization.
“The 13th of September 2007 will be remembered as an international human rights day for the Indigenous Peoples of the world, a day that the United Nations and its Member States, together with Indigenous Peoples, reconciled with past painful histories and decided to march into the future on the path of human rights,” said Ms. Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language and others. The Declaration explicitly encourages harmonious

Source: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/Declaration_ip_pressrelease.pdf

Khmer Kroms: Cambodia’s stateless people

Filed under: ខ្មែរ​ Khmer,Khmer Krom — khmerlander @ 8:59 ល្ងាច

Demonstratin of Khmers Kroms in front of the High-Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Sept. 23 2007


8 October 07 – The Vietnamese treat them as political troublemakers – the Cambodians as spies. From the former Cochin China, the Khmer Kroms no longer know where to turn to be recognised as a separate people. During the sixth session of the Human Rights Council, they went to meet Louise Arbour in Geneva


Carole Vann/InfoSud – They are deeply Buddhist and fiercely anti-communist. They feel completely Cambodian. They are calling for their own identity, language and religion. At the heart of their tragedy is the fact that they live in the former Cochin China along the Mekong delta on Vietnamese territory, a land governed by the doctrine of Marx and Lenin and which has very ambivalent realtions with its Cambodian neighbour. The suffering of the Khmer Kroms has gone on for decades.

Considered as dangerous political agitators by the government in Hanoi, they have been rejected by their Cambodian brothers who see them as potential spies sent by their neighbour, who though officially an ally, in reality is an enemy. In order to defend themselves, they set up a Federation and in 2001 became members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisations. During the 6th session of the Human Rights Council, they came to plead their cause to the High Commissioner Louise Arbour. At the end of September, nearly 400 Khmers from all over Europe formed a human chain in front of the Geneva office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We are only calling for the right to live in peace on our land, to be able to speak Khmer, to practise Theravada Buddhism, to travel freely between Cambodia and Vietnam and to teach our history in our schools. We also want the continual persecution of our people to stop,” said Vien Thach, vice president of the Federation of Khmers of Kampuchea Krom with a gentle demeanour and affable air. He lives in Paris but regularly returns to Cambodia and Vietnam to gather information about the situation on the ground. According to the Federation, there are eight million Khmer Kroms in Vietnam compared to just over a million in Cambodia. Deeply attached to their culture, they have criticised Hanoi’s policy of vietnamisation.

Sitting in a vast UN lobby, Vien Thach goes through the never-ending list of abuses and humiliations suffered by his compatriots: interference by the Vietnamese authorities in the organisation of the monasteries and in the daily life of the Khmers Kroms, arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances and deportations to re-education camps. Last February, a monk was found with his throat slit in his cell because he took part in a pacifist demonstration in front of the Vietnamese embassy in Cambodia. And Vien Thach indicates that Vietnam still has a heavy influence on the Khmer government.

The case of the respected Tim Sa Korn, a Khmer Krom monk, is symptomatic of the situation that this community finds itself in, rejected by both sides. In June, Tim Sa Korn was defrocked by the head of the temple of Phnom Den, near the Cambodian capital. He was then expelled from Cambodia (a country whose nationality he holds) to Vietnam. The reason given was that he had allegedly been involved in activities that threatened Khmer Vietnamese friendship. Imprisoned in Vietnam, he then disappeared. His family have had no word of him. Other monks and human rights activists have also been jailed in flagrant breach of any respect for their fundamental human rights or their nationality.

As for the respective governments, both play political football with them and make contradictory statements. After accusing Tim Sa Korn of “threatening Khmer Vietnamese friendship”, the Cambodian Ministry of Information changed its tune. It said Tim Sa Korn had had sexual relations with women, the reason he was defrocked and expelled to Vietnam. Another version circulating was that he abused other monks or that in actuality he was an evangelical Christian disguised as a monk, who had “fornicated”. This was done in order to tarnish the image of Buddhism and to incite believers to convert to Christianity as a more pure religion.

In the meantime, Tim Sa Korn and many other Khmers Kroms are rotting in Vietnamese camps or jails, forgotten by the world.


Source: Geneva Human Rights Tribune, http://www.humanrights-geneva.info/article.php3?id_article=2329, retrieved October 20, 2007


ខែ​តុលា 7, 2007


Filed under: ខ្មែរ​ Khmer — khmerlander @ 12:28 ព្រឹក



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