UNPO Deeply Concerned at UNCHR Decision on Khmer-Krom Refugees


To the kind attention of: UN High Commissioner for Refugees,
The Hague, 15 September 2005
High Commissioner Mr. António Guterres,
On behalf of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), I would hereby like to bring the following matter to Your urgent attention.
UNPO is a membership organisation representing politically marginalized groups worldwide, providing these groups with a voice in international human rights fora. Among UNPO’s 63 Member groups, is the people of Khmer-Krom in Vietnam, represented by the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF). KKF dedicates its work to promote democracy and human rights for the Khmer people living in their ancestral land, Kampuchea-Krom, in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, where they continue to struggle to preserve the existence of their cultural identity.
Currently, the Khmer are fleeing from their homeland in large numbers, many being robbed of their farmland and living in dire poverty. The Vietnamese authorities retain control of the practice of Khmer Buddhism which lies at the core of Khmer culture. Ii is a known fact that in April 1978 there was a massacre of the Khmer in the Moat Chrouk temple. Recently, Vietnam have launched a new attack on Khmer people. In a State Security Report by the Government in April 2005, local authorities were ordered to use all means to silence any Khmer who dares to cry for democracy and fundamental rights. Many Khmer-Krom were detained. Some monks were disrobed, as in the case of Ven. Ly Pho of Wat Kompong Sai (Province of Tra Vinh). Most of those who have relatives living abroad are threatened, intimidated, and restricted in their movements. It is believed that many of those applying for refuge in Phnom Penh have experienced similar situations.
On August 1 2005, fifty three (53) laymen and twenty one (21) Khmer- Krom monks, whom the UNHCR in Phnom Penh certified as "People of Concern", went to the UNHCR office in Phnom Penh to demand the same kind of protections that the UNHCR has granted to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The threats to the Khmer-Krom by the Vietnamese are similar to the threats to the ethnic Albanian by the Serb. Their hope and fate remain in process of the UNHCR. To our dismay, on August 4 2005, a greatly discouraging announcement from the UNHCR proclaimed that Khmer Krom refugees are not of the responsibility of the UNHCR, but with the Cambodian authority. This decision by the UNHCR does not reflect the true situation that Khmer refugees currently face in Vietnam and in Cambodia. In essence, the decision serves as an indirect endorsement of the injustice of the oppressive government of Vietnam.
Thus, UNPO hereby strongly urges the UNHCR to take action on the following recommendations:
to reconsider granting refugee status, on a case by case basis, to those whose lives would be jeopardized should they return to Kampuchea Krom,
to provide basic support including shelters, foods and medical care, ensuring the smooth integration to the Cambodian society of those who choose to be resettled in the Kingdom of Cambodia,
to have international organizations monitor the situation of and protect those who choose to return to their homeland,
and to permanently stop the potential exodus by demanding the Vietnamese government to respect the rights of Khmer Krom as the indigenous people in accordance to international conventions.
UNPO would be grateful if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees would give due consideration to the urgent request contained in this letter.
Marino Busdachin
UNPO General Secretary