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Vietnam rights review neglects Khmer Krom

A UN study makes no mention of the group

DESPITE promises earlier in the year that the widespread rights abuse of Khmer Krom minorities in Vietnam would be put on the UN's agenda, a periodic review of the country has excluded any mention of the persecuted ethnic group.

In a document dated February 23 and recently posted on the UN Human Rights Council's  website, nongovernmental groups assessing Vietnam's human rights record made mention of its treatment of minorities, including the ethnic Buddhist group, numerous times.

However in a summary prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights based on these comments, the group wasn't mentioned at all.

"For centuries and specifically since June 1949, the Vietnamese government instituted practices and policies to discriminate against Khmer Krom people and decrease the possibility for Khmer Krom to exercise the right to self-determination," the development community report noted.

"Through every phase of the occupation, Khmer Krom people resisted to perpetuate their culture, language and continued existence as a collective identity," it added.

The report included the abuses of the group's right to education and health, citing the fact that the government has ignored reports that approximately 3,000 Khmer Krom have been affected by an epidemic of blindness.

Meeting raises hopes

In meetings with the UN's special rapporteur on human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, and the UN refugee office in Bangkok last month, Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Phnom Penh-based Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, was told the international body would call on Vietnamese officials to defend charges against its treatment of Khmer Krom and Montagnard hill tribes, as well as other indigenous groups.

The news renewed hope for Khmer Krom activists, amid a fresh stream of criticism against its government's treatment of ethnic groups living within its borders.

The review, completed for each UN member state every four years, will be subjected to public scrutiny at a working group in Geneva on May 4. 

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