Khmer Krom group petitions for Vietnam to be removed from UN body

The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation also called for the release of imprisoned activists.


RFA | 2024.04.10

A group representing Vietnam’s Khmer Krom indigenous people has sent a petition to the United Nations Secretary General requesting the suspension of Vietnam's membership of the U.N. Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, and calling for the release of imprisoned activists.

The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, or KKF, posted an open letter on the website on April 4 to collect signatures. The letter said, “Vietnam's recent crackdown on the indigenous Khmer-Krom community has reached alarming levels, with widespread reports of arbitrary arrests, unjust imprisonment, and religious persecution."

Around 1.3 million Khmer Krom live in a part of Vietnam that was once southeastern Cambodia. They face discrimination in Vietnam and suspicion in Cambodia, where they are often perceived not as Cambodians but as Vietnamese. 

The KKF pointed out that courts in several southern provinces sentenced four Khmer activists, Thach Cuong, To Hoang Chuong, Danh Minh Quang, and Dinh Thi Huynh, to prison – three for the crime of "abusing democratic freedoms" under Article 331 of the criminal code. 

According to the KKF, they were imprisoned simply for promoting rights by disseminating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and organizing people to celebrate International Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and International Women's Day (March 8).

“Indeed, those books and documents should have been distributed by the Communist Government of Vietnam in ethnic minority areas and indigenous ethnic areas, but they did not do it. They hid it. They didn’t apply it. They just signed with the U.N.," Tran Xa Rong, Second Vice President of the KKF, told Radio Free Asia by phone from Italy on April 9.

The petition said that in addition to targeting activists, the Vietnamese government also arrested and defrocked Khmer Krom Buddhist monks at the end of March.

Monk Thach Chanh Da Ra, abbot of Dai Tho pagoda, along with follower Kim Khiem, were arrested for “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 while four monks Duong Khai, Thach Qui Lay, Kim Sa Ruong, Thach Chop, and two followers Thach Ve Sanal and Thach Nha were detained under Article 157 of the criminal code.

The local government also sent excavators to destroy the lecture hall that was built by monk Thach Chanh Da Ra three years ago as a place of study for monks and followers.

"This act of cultural and religious desecration not only deprives the Khmer-Krom people of their places of worship but also constitutes a grave violation of their cultural heritage and identity,” said the KKF in its open letter.

“These human rights violations are clear evidence of Vietnam's failure to uphold its obligations as a member of the UNHRC. 

“By condoning and perpetrating such abuses, Vietnam has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core values of the United Nations,” the letter said.

Vietnam is a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term and is lobbying its supporters for reelection.

RFA sent emails to Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the UN Secretary General with a request for comments on KKF's allegations but did not immediately receive a response. 

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn.




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