The latest drama played out on the international stage this week, no more shocking then who are the actors involved: Vietnam versus the human rights defender Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF).
Flying just under the international radar for over 20 years, KKF hits the stage and received world wide support from the most powerful countries including United States and the European Union when Vietnam tries to get them kicked out of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
It’s all started when in May 2012, ECOSOC’s Committee on Non-governmental Organisations, in a consensus decision, approved KKF’s application for special consultative status with the Council. Vietnam protested strongly against the decision at the time.
This week a resolution to overturn the decision was tabled by Vietnam along with El Salvador and fellow ASEAN member States Burma, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
In a supporting speech for a no vote, the United States say KKF is “a peaceful advocacy organization based in the United States. It did nothing other than help marginalized Khmers people in Viet Nam and raise awareness of their situation” according to the UN document.
The United States representative recognize the KKF “had participated in United Nations bodies for more than a decade and its principles were in line with the Charter” and continue to urge the Council to oppose the resolution citing “The role of civil society was to express independent views. If the Council opposed accreditation, it risked denying the whole reason the United Nations valued civil society in the first place”.
Representative from Ireland speaking on behalf of the European Union agrees that there’s nothing new about KKF, and that “The Union believed that it was not appropriate to oppose accreditation for an organization simply because it expressed views different from those of Governments represented on the Council”.
Vietnam accused KKF of having a separatist agenda based merely on statements made on KKF website which expresses the Khmer Krom people’s frustration with the Vietnamese government for the over a century of oppressions, ethnic cleansing through Vietnamization, massacres, land grabbing and being treated as a second class citizen.
Sure Khmer Kroms want the right to self-determination as granted by the UN International Covenant on Civl and Political Rights, which Vietnam is a signatory.
The KKF’s policies are clear. Its aims and purposes are, through the use of peaceful measures and international laws, to seek freedom, justice, and the right to self-determination for the Indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples living under the oppression of the Vietnamese government in Southern Vietnam called Kampuchea-Krom in Khmer. There is not even a thread of evidence to suggest that any KKF activities support Vietnam’s claim.
By comparing some of the statements on KKF web site to same “pretext, the Pol PotIeng Sary clique of the abhorrent, genocidal Khmer Rouge regime … massacres of thousands of innocent Vietnamese civilians from 1977 to 1979” is not just insulting to the Cambodian people as a whole, but also blatant disregard and disrespect for the dignity of the estimated one hundred and fifty thousands Khmer Krom who were massacred by the Khmer Rouge during the same period. Not to forget the many thousands of Khmer Kroms who were sent by Vietnamese communist government to the front line and get murdered in defense against the Khmer Rouge.
KKF is the Khmer Krom’s only voice on the international stage. Although the Council has voted to revoke KKF consultative status, it has bolster its profile even higher through this drama with the support from the US, EU and the International non-governmental organisations including Human Rights Watch.
Vietnam have taken notice of the strength of Khmer Krom’s unity, hence like a cowardice bully, attempt to trample on it. Only time will tell the extends of ramification on Vietnam itself for its own action. It has not dampened Khmer Krom's spirit; to the contrary in fact.