WORLD DAY OF GANDHIAN - NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE - FOR FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY ALSO IN VIETNAM: SPEECH BY KOK KSOR, PRESIDENT OF THE "MONTAGNARD FOUNDATION INC" AT THE GANDHI MEMORIAL IN WASHINGTON


Ladies and Gentlemen, Honorable Marco Cappato, President Marco Perduca, President Vo Van Ai, and President Wey Jiinsheng, Distinguished guests,

I am very happy to be here with all of you today.

Today, in fact, is an historic day for the Montagnard people, and for the non-violent struggle for freedom and democracy in Vietnam. Thanks to the efforts of the Transnational Radical Party, and in particular of its President, Honorable Marco Pannella and of Honorable Emma Bonino, we have dozens of demonstrations convened in front of the Vietnamese Embassies all over the world, on the occasion of the World-Day of Nonviolent struggle for Democracy and Freedom also in Vietnam.

Today, here in Washington hundreds of Montagnard have come from North Carolina, where we have expatriated to escape the repression of the Vietnamese regime, and we are calling on the Vietnamese Government and on the international community for the enforcement of human, civil and political rights, which are binding to Vietnam according to international law.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is an historic day for the Montagnard people, not only because this is the largest political demonstration of the Montagnards abroad in their history, but also because we are here to state in a clear and indisputable way in front of all the international community, that we have chosen Nonviolence as the only mean to be used in our firm struggle for freedom and democracy.

We have chosen Nonviolence since many years, and we won't accept any more the propaganda of Hanoi's regime which labels as terrorists me and all the Montagnards who are risking their lives for the respect of their basic human rights.

Ladies and gentleman, since 1975, the Vietnamese Authorities, not the Montagnards, are terrorizing the people who live in Vietnam !!

Over the decades, hundreds of thousands of Montagnard have died fighting wars that we have never understood. We have fought the war to obtain an autonomy status which could allow us to enjoy our ancestral lands respect and our customs and traditions. Now we do not want to see Montagnards dieing in a war any more!

The only weapon that we have today in our hands in Nonviolence.

As my fellow radical Honorable Marco Pannella says:" We are armed of nonviolence", and we will use nonviolence to let the international community know, the terrible conditions in which the Montagnard people are living under the dictatorship of Hanoi.

Our presence here in front of the Gandhi Memorial in Washington it is a symbolic, and very meaningful presence. Thanks to non-violence, Gandhi was able to conquer freedom and democracy for the Indian people. Gandhi used the word Satyagraha to describe the nonviolent struggle of the Indian people to enjoy their fundamental civil and political rights. The word Satyagraha means strength of the truth.

I am convinced, and I want to announce it here, that with the help of democratic Governments and the international Community, the strength of the truth of the Montagnard and of all non-violent people will prevail against dictatorships, and democracy and freedom will be a reality also in Vietnam.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today we are not neither angry nor scared, we do not hate neither the Vietnamese Communist Government nor the Vietnamese people, otherwise, we are here to state our firm belief in the strength of the truth, because we know that, thanks to non-violence, the truth of the repressions, violences and deaths suffered by the Montagnard people will come out sooner or later.

I speak to you today under the gravest of circumstances - as the land of my birth, the central highlands of Vietnam - is under martial law.

Thousands of Vietnamese government soldiers patrol our ancestral homelands persecuting our villagers and hunting our refugees who try fleeing Vietnam.

Over the past year bounties have been paid for our captured refugees as Vietnam and Cambodia defied international law and sold, kidnapped and shocked with electric torture, hundreds of our people.

These human rights violations would force the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to cancel the repatriation agreement with Vietnam leading to 900 of our refugees being granted asylum in the United States.

As you may know the Vietnamese government recently denied the European Union delegation access to visit imprisoned religious leaders in Vietnam.

International monitors however, are also banned from access to our homelands in the central highlands which are under martial law.

For 2000 years however, we the Montagnards or Degar peoples - indigenous peoples of South-East Asia have inhabited the "Central Highlands" of southern Vietnam.

Here we lived in village communities where we practiced traditional agriculture, hunting and fishing, until invaders came and began persecuting us.

It is a persecution that never ended and on 23 April 2002 Human Rights Watch stated in a press release: - "The Montagnards have been repressed for decades. This has got to stop".

In April 2002 Human Rights Watch also documented in a 194 page report titled "Repression of Montagnards" numerous cases studies of torture, beatings, arrests and killings of our people.

The origins of this repression stems from several historical factors -beginning with communist revenge because many of our people had allied themselves with the United States military during the Vietnam War.

Today the current communist regime carries out this revenge against us by exploiting our homelands like indigenous peoples all over the world have suffered under modern encroachment.

In the year 2002 our people face continually official policies that force us from our ancestral villages to make way for government controlled coffee plantations.

They also persecute us for being Christian.

Both the US State Department and Human Rights Watch report "official policies" where authorities force us to actually drink animals blood while renouncing Christ.

Human Rights Watch reported in April 2002:

"Confidential government directives issued between 1999 and 2001 show a centrally directed campaign and special bureaucratic infrastructure to target and suppress Christians in ethnic minority areas in the northern and western highlands".

The government also kills us in devious ways.

The official policy of "Fixed Field, Fixed Residence" which makes our traditional agricultural practices illegal - condemns us to poverty.

First they confiscate our ancestral lands and force us on to small infertile plots of land and we cannot grow enough food.

UNICEF reported in 2001 that our children suffer the worst rates of malnutrition and poverty in Vietnam.

UNICEF Stated "children belonging to ethnic minority groups generally find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder from the day they are born."

After we have no land the government says we are poor - we have too many children.

Then they say to our women we must get surgically sterilized.

Of course our race of people feel threatened.

So in an expression of dissent in February 2001, thousands of our people in the central highlands stood up and peacefully demonstrated.

However, instead of solving the grievances of our people the Hanoi government sent in thousands of troops, tanks and helicopter gun-ships to suppress the demonstrations.

In the first few weeks alone hundreds of our people were beaten and tortured with electric prods.

Last year while burning the village church in Plei Lao the Vietnamese soldiers shot and killed a Montagnard Christian named R'mah Blim.

Last month on August 25, 2002, a Vietnamese security agent used a machete to hack to death the Montagnard Christian Y-Preo Nie's at Buon Hok village in Daklak province.

Even my innocent relatives were targeted for revenge.

After the February 2001 demonstrations my step-brothers were forced to denounce me on Vietnamese television.

While my 80 year old mother refused to denounce me she was beaten by Vietnamese police and hospitalized with broken ribs.

In April 2002 my 18 year old niece was gang raped by authorities because she tried fleeing Vietnam.

In the last two months police and soldiers have stepped up repression and imprisoned 55 more of our people.

The Vietnamese government has sent hundreds of their security forces dressed as civilians into the Central Highlands in order to monitor activities of our people.

Dogs are used to hunt down our refugees who have escaped into the jungles.

It is now however, common knowledge that Vietnamese security forces state they will execute Montagnard refugees "RIGHT ON THE SPOT" without any question.

Right now thousands of our Montagnard people are currently missing or hiding in the jungles.

Bodies are reported now floating on the Gia Lai river.

The Vietnamese communists have not stopped there however.

To denounce the repression suffered by my people, since 1993 I have been attending the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations but this year - the Vietnamese Ambassador publicly accused me of being a TERRORIST while I was addressing the United Nations Human Rights Commission as a delegate of the Transnational Radical Party.

Vietnam is now trying to hijack the principals of democracy and free speech in the UN and trying to force the entire Transnational Radical Party out of the United Nations by getting their consultative status revoked.

In the name of democracy Vietnam must not succeed.

In the name of our imprisoned leaders, our Christian pastors who remain in prison, our children who suffer malnutrition, our people who have suffered electric shock torture, our people who have been murdered and disappeared, our farmers who have been forced off their lands,

On behalf of them all - we the Montagnard Foundation respectfully ask the International community the following:

- To consider the concluding observations on Vietnam made by the 75th Session of the UN Human Rights Committee on 26 July 2002 namely item 19: I quote "The state party should take immediate measures to ensure that the rights of members of indigenous communities are respected.

Further

- Non-government organizations and other human rights monitors should be granted access to the central highlands."



- We ask the European Parliament re-consider the granting of future European Aid earmarked for Vietnam, namely consider the written declarations submitted to the European Parliament by Marco Pannella of the Transnational Radical Party on 13/09/2002.

- We ask the US Congress to adopt the Vietnam Human Rights Act to ensure a serious and strict enforcement of the obligations to respect human rights which apply to the Vietnamese Government, and not to grant any money to such regime in the case of a blatant disrespect of such principles.



- We ask the International Community to use every reasonable means possible to ensure the Transnational Radical Party retains its consultative status to the UN and that that democracy is pursued for all the oppressed peoples.

On behalf of the Montagnard Degar people I thank you.