Police arrest activists for Khmer Krom minority in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region

Authorities said the men had been passing out copies of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
By RFA Vietnamese
Police arrest activists for Khmer Krom minority in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region Police of Soc Trang and Tra Vinh provinces prosecuted and arrested Thach Cuong.
(Image from CAND: Vietnam People’s Public Security)

Three members of Vietnam’s Khmer Krom minority group who are suspected of distributing books about indigenous peoples’ rights were arrested on Monday in the Mekong Delta region, authorities told local media.

One of the three men was To Hoang Chuong of Tra Vinh province. Radio Free Asia’s Vietnamese Service reported last month that he was beaten by local policemen in June while visiting a friend in neighboring Soc Trang province.

On June 25, the U.S.-based Union of Khmers Kampuchea Krom issued a statement condemning the Soc Trang Provincial Police for the “brutal and inhuman treatment” of Chuong.

The other two men arrested on Monday were Danh Minh Quang of Soc Trang province and Thach Cuong of Tra Vinh province. 

Police in both provinces told local media that local residents reported that the men had been passing out copies of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions. 

The nearly 1.3-million strong Khmer Krom live in a part of Vietnam that was once southeastern Cambodia. They have faced serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and movement. 

The three men have been charged with “abusing democratic freedoms” under Article 331 of the Penal Code, a statute used by Vietnamese authorities to silence those speaking out for human rights.

Homes surrounded

Additionally, Soc Trang provincial authorities arrested two other Khmer Krom activists on Monday and surrounded the home of another two activists, one of the activists told RFA’s Khmer Service.

The siege of the two homes was an attempt by plainclothes police to intimidate, Lim Vong told RFA Khmer.

“I appeal to the United Nations to help stop Vietnamese authorities from excessively abusing the rights of the Khmer Krom people. I have done nothing wrong in Vietnam,” he said.

“I only distributed the United Nations’ textbooks about human rights and the rights to self-determination,” he told RFA. “I neither demand back the territory of Kampuchea Krom nor demand the separation of the Khmer Krom from Vietnam.”

Some activists have also been harassed recently by police for wearing T-shirts that show the Khmer Kampuchea Krom flag, according to Son Chumchoun, secretary general of the Phnom Penh-based Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association for Human Rights and Development.

The Vietnamese government has banned its human rights publications and has tightly controlled the practice of Theravada Buddhism by the group, which sees the religion as a foundation of their distinct culture and ethnic identity. 

Last year, seven special U.N. rapporteurs sent a 16-page letter to Vietnam’s government about the country’s alleged failure to recognize the right to self-determination of the Khmer Krom.

Hanoi denied the allegations in May and said it does not repress the Khmer Krom. 

Translated by RFA Vietnamese and Sok Ry Sum of RFA Khmer. Edited by Matt Reed.


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