The Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association yesterday gathered in Phnom Penh Thmey commune in celebration of the 23rd International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. Suen Chumchuon, director of the organisation, called for Vietnam to protect the freedoms of the Khmer Krom, who are ethnic Khmers living mostly in Southern Vietnam. He added that Khmer Krom are prohibited from practising their religion.
‘The Vietnamese government has to offer full rights to the Khmer Krom,’ Chumchuon said. Yun Tharo, head of the Kampuchea Krom Culture Center and an opposition lawmaker, said that by calling them a ‘minority’, Vietnam was ignoring their claims to land in the Mekong Delta that used to belong to the Khmer empire.
‘Vietnam has to call the Khmer Krom an ‘indigenous group’, and to respect their human rights, and offer chances for education, to live a life equally without discrimination, including stopping the abuse of monks,’ he said. Suen Sopharin, a Khmer Krom monk, said he was abused by Vietnamese authorities because he taught children about their history. ‘I escaped to live in central Cambodia because Vietnamese authorities continually abused and urged me to leave my homeland,’ the monk said. A representative of the Vietnamese Embassy declined to comment.