January 18, 2007

UNPO Appeals to Halt Suppression in Vietnam

UNPO appeals to the international community to halt the continuous and systematic harassment and persecution of the Khmer Krom community in Vietnam.

The Hague, 18 January 2007 – UNPO remains deeply concerned about the fate of multiple Khmer Krom Buddhist monks, as well as the larger Khmer Krom community, and has issued an appeal addressing their continuous and systematic harassment and persecution, including torture, arbitrary detention, and infringements upon their rights to free speech, free assembly, and free access to information and media.

On 11 December 2006 Mr. Dinh So Thy, a student from Soc Trang Province, was arrested and tortured for accessing the internet. Reports indicate that he was given no food or medical attention for the injuries inflicted by local authorities, who also informed him he had no right to access the internet.

Additional reports also suggest that a peaceful Khmer Krom protests on 29 December 2006, held in Soc Trang Province, and concerning a petition for the return of confiscated ancestral farmland to the Khmer Krom community, was disrupted as the organiser, Mr. Huynh Ba, was detained by authorities.

On 2 January 2007, in Soc Trang (Kleang) Province, Vietnamese Authorities (Ban Ton Giao Tinh Soc Trang) summoned five Buddhist monks resident at the Kleang Temple (Wat Kleang): The Venerable Kim Moun (Kleang Temple), the Venerable Kim Mai Linh, the Venerable Thach Do, the Venerable Thach Ram (Trolech Temple), and the Venerable Thach Ngoc PhatCaDi (Kampongdung Temple).

These monks were studying at Bali School (Trung Cap Nam Bo), an institution designed to promote the study of Khmer Krom philosophy, language and art. Whilst in detention, the monks were ordered and pressured to confess to fabricated reports of crimes, and to provide detailed accusations against other Buddhist monks who have fled to Cambodia following similar religious persecution. Indications are that the monks were targeted for accessing audio and video materials produced by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), documenting their peaceful efforts to promote the rights of the Khmer Krom People.  

On 9 January 2007, police forces from the Soc Trang province entered the residence of the Venerable Thach Vann Bin. Reports seen by UNPO detail the consequent harassment of Venerable Thach Vann Bin’s mother (72), son, Thach RichviSal (6), and nephew, Ly Binrong (6 months). The police also reportedly threatened further action if the Venerable Thach Vann Bin did not begin collaborating with government authorities.

UNPO is greatly disturbed by these recent developments, which follow a number of similar incidents of arrest and torture in November and December of 2006. UNPO condemns in particular the persecution of Khmer individuals associated with the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), a Member representative organ of UNPO recognised for its non-violent principles and dedicated work in promoting human rights and the rights of the Khmer people.

UNPO has therefore appealed to Ms. Hina Jilani, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Chairperson of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and numerous foreign embassies in Vietnam to:

- call upon Vietnamese authorities to end their arbitrary and unlawful persecution of the Khmer Krom community, including that of Buddhist monks and individuals associated with the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF);

- urge the Government of Vietnam to assure that these individuals are being granted their full range of human, civil, and political rights;

- remind Vietnamese authorities of their obligations under international treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, as well internationally recognised standards of justice;

- raise the issue of human rights in their relations with representatives from the government of Vietnam, in particular with respect to minorities such as the Khmer Krom; and

- urge those to use their mandates to investigate and question Vietnamese authorities on issues relating to the treatment of indigenous and minority people, such as the Khmer Krom.