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Rule with an Iron Fist

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On February 28, 2010, Mr. Huynh Ba, a Khmer-Krom man who was arrested since 2009 because of standing up to demand returning his confiscated farmland, was released. It was good news for his family and friends. After arriving home about couple hours, Mr. Huynh Ba talked to the VOKK reporter on the phone. His conversation with the VOKK reporter made people understanding more about how the Khmer-Krom people are currently living under the oppression of the Vietnamese Communist Government.

Mr. Huynh Ba kept repeating that he is very scared. He scared to talk about how he was treated in the prison. He even said that he scared to demand asking to return his confiscated farmlands, but He will wait for the changes in the government. If the “chance” comes, he will ask for the compensation of his farmland with the market price. Even Mr. Huynh Ba kept saying that he scared and he doesn’t want to mention too much about his time in prison, but Mr. Huynh Ba sent a clear message to the listeners that the Khmer-Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom don’t have the freedom of speech and live in the psychology of fear because the Vietnamese Communist government rules the country with an Iron of Fist.

In Vietnam, when people speak up to demand for freedom, they would be labeled and accused as “Separatists” and “Intentionally to overthrow the government”, even those people are just human rights activists. When the activists are accused with those “alleged crimes”, they could be easily sent to imprison. Because of that, the people in Vietnam, especially the Khmer-Krom, really scare to stand up. They are silently living in fear for decades already.

Most of the Khmer-Krom people are Buddhists. Buddhism is not only their religion, but it is also part of their unique culture. The Khmer-Krom people really respect the Buddhist monks, especially the Abbot in the temples in their villages. There are more than 500 Buddhist temples in Kampuchea-Krom and more than 10 thousands Buddhist monks, but the Khmer-Krom people are not allowed to form their own Khmer-Krom Theravada Buddhist Association. The Vietnamese government forces the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks to join the Buddhist organization that is organized by the government, called “Vietnamese Buddhist Shangha (VBS)”. When a Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk wants to study Buddhism abroad, he has to get permission of the VBS. The VBS now starts interfering into the election of the Abbot of the Khmer-Krom temples.

To control Khmer-Krom, the Vietnamese government starts with controlling the Khmer-Krom Buddhist leaders. The government degrades the reputation of the Khmer-Krom religion by paying the Abbots who follow the orders of the Vietnamese government as the secret agents to monitor the activities of the Buddhist monks in their temples. As the Buddhist monks, they are not allowed to receive any salary, but some of them have no choice because they scare of the government. If the Abbots don’t follow the Vietnamese government’s orders, then their temple would be isolated and keep getting threatening.

The Vietnamese government even blocks the Websites that publish about the Khmer-Krom Human Rights violation. In Vietnam, the khmerkrom.net and khmerkrom.org websites are officially blocked. However, some Internet Service Providers might forget to block. Because of that the Khmer-Krom youths in Vietnam one for awhile can access the Khmerkrom.net or Khmerkrom.org websites. The Vietnamese government even forbids Khmer-Krom to watch the Television programs that are being broadcasted from Cambodia via Satellite. Even the contents of those programs have nothing to do regarding to the Human Rights, but the Vietnamese government doesn’t want the Khmer-Krom to watch and listen to the television programs in their Khmer language.

If the Vietnamese government keeps ruling Kampuchea-Krom with its iron fist to make the Khmer-Krom living in fear and poverty, then one day, when the Khmer-Krom people really feed up with the Vietnamese government’s oppression policies, they would not fear anymore because they have nothing to lose and to fear about. They would stand up just like the people in Middle East and North Africa.