Khmer-Krom: Internal Chaos of Indigenous People

Khmer-Krom: Internal Chaos of Indigenous People

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October 26, 2006

By the Khmer-Krom Federation:

For many outsiders, Vietnam appears to be doing all the right things. In fact, earlier this year the United Nations has praised Vietnam for its efforts in changing its ways and making rapid progress. In its attempt to successful join the World Trading Organization, Vietnam has certainly polished their images at the international arena.

Stories from inside, however displays a different picture. Sadly, only those living in Kampuchea-Krom could fully appreciate desperate situation that they are subjected to. Unlike the rapid ethnic cleansing that their Diem government tried to implement against the Khmer-Krom people in the 1950s, they now face a different sort of elimination. One that is more deadly and silent than their previous tactics. Instead of killing the Khmer-Krom people physically, their lands, voices and identity has been systematically altered for the benefit of Vietnam.

Countless numbers of Khmer-Krom individuals have been beaten senseless for simply watching videos about the UN and possessing materials that promote their sense of identity and unity. Thousands of young Khmer-Krom men and women remain jobless because their fathers were involved in the Vietnam War. The few who are employed must adhere to strict conditions such as only taking Vietnamese wives in order to be accepted.

Although unbelievable, such acts of forced assimilation of the largest indigenous group in the Mekong Delta region into the Vietnamese way of life continue. Many Khmer-Krom people have been forced to abandon all ties to what them make uniquely Khmer to be able to survive. Such tactics ensure the successful integration of Khmer-Krom people into the Vietnamese society while eliminating what is left of the Khmer culture and identity.

Only ten years ago, videos produced by Khmer-Krom dance groups displayed traditional dances and songs. Nowadays, songs containing Khmers words, are becoming rare and in between. Cambodian traditional performances have been modified to fit within the Vietnamese entertainment framework.

At first glance, the blend of Khmer and Vietnamese culture appears to be an inclusive process initiated by the government of Vietnam to include the Khmer-Krom people into mainstream society. However, for many Khmer-Krom living in Kampuchea Krom and abroad, such acts are considered to be a violation to the Khmer-Krom identity. Indeed such act does not preserve the Khmer-Krom cultural identity, rather its changed to make it in something that clearly not same as its tradition.

Vietnam often boasts that it is proud of its rich and diverse ethnic communities. Article five of its constitution even states that all nationalities had the right promote its fine customs, traditions and culture. Reality however, paints a contradicting picture to the desperate situation of the Khmer-Krom people. Instead of preserving the clearly distinctive culture of the Khmer-Krom people, their identities have been changed to Vietnamese. Khmer-Krom temples have been renamed to Vietnamese.

The dignity of the Khmer-Krom people and temples that was once respected, valued and protected during the former French colonization of Kampuchea-Krom have now been stripped bare under the communist regime. Their proud nature have been severely degraded, their sense of community undermined, living a life that is controlled by others and not of their own making.

Vietnam as a country must stop forcing the Khmer-Krom people to incorporate into mainstream society by changing their culture and identity. Such acts are a violation against its very own constitutions, international laws, UN Declaration on Human Rights and UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. Only by truly accepting and valuing that the Khmer-Krom people are indeed human beings can Vietnam become a truly respected country in the eyes of the Khmer-Krom people and international communities worldwide.


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