Members of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority group and experts will meet in The Hague, Netherlands, in early June to attend the Second World Conference, which focuses on "Khmer Krom’s right to self-determination".
The continuing international advocacy effort is aimed at promoting freedom and respect for Khmer Krom human rights in southern Vietnam, which was granted to the Vietnamese administration by France on independence, but which is home to a large population of ethnic Khmer people, known as Khmer Krom.
During a visit to Washington this week to meet with US State Department officials and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to continue their work, Prak Sereivuth, president of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), who led the delegation, told VOA Khmer in Washington, DC, that non-violent protest action was justified to highlight abuses against the Khmer Krom.
"And we do not want to endanger the lives of Khmer Krom people, we do through international diplomatic, international law with peaceful means," he said.
Sereivuth called on Vietnam to end alleged persecution of Khmer Krom.
"It depends on the Vietnam government. If the Vietnamese government wants to live with the Khmer Krom brothers, like every other nationality who comes to live in the United States and live in harmony, the Vietnamese government must give equal freedoms,” he said.
Tran Mannarinh, director of planning at the KKF, said that The Hague meeting would include an in-depth debate about the Khmer Krom’s status.
"From there, we will gather the ideas of all the speakers who are indigenous experts on self-determination," he said.
Khmer Krom in Vietnam is allegedly the subject of institutionalized inequality and persecution, including being prohibited from practicing their faith and being barred from speaking their native language and celebrating traditional festivals.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented what it calls serious human rights abuses committed against the Khmer Krom by the Vietnamese authorities, including the arrest of political dissidents. It has called on the European Union to suspend trade agreements with Vietnam until the situation improves.
Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said Khmer Krom were the subject of intrusive Vietnamese surveillance of their community.
“They are not able to evade the surveillance and control of the Vietnam government. You know this is very intrusive surveillance. This is efforts to try to control people, to try to harass various leaders, to try to force the Khmer Krom community to conform with Vietnam’s existing norms,” he said.
“What would be important would be for the Vietnam government to offer some degree of significant autonomy to the Khmer Krom to run their own affairs,” he added.