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When Vietnam has a Thanksgiving Day to Thank Khmer-Krom

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Brief history of the Thanksgiving Day in America

In September 1620, there were 102 passengers on a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, to seek for a new home in the New World, so they could freely practice their faith and own a prosperity lands. After a long trip on the sea, faced a brutal winter, and suffered from outbreaks of the contagious disease, only half of the Mayflower’s passengers survived and moved ashore in Massachusetts in March 2011. They were fortunate to be greeted in English by an Abenaki Indian and later introduced to another Native American, Squanto, who could speak English. Squanto taught them how to cultivate corn, catch fish in rivers, extract sap from maple tree, and avoid poisonous plants.

In November 1621, the Pilgrims successfully harvested their first corn. They organized a celebratory feast and invited the Native American to celebrate the American’s “first Thanksgiving” to the Native American. In December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill into law making Thanksgiving a national holiday on the fourth Thursday in November of each year.

Brief history of the First Present of the Vietnamese in Kampuchea-Krom

In 1620, North Vietnam was still divided and controlled by Trinh Lord (Upper North) and Nguyen Lord (Lower North). With the pressure from the North by the Trinh Lord and constant attacks from the South by Champa in efforts to reclaim its land, the Nguyen Lord tactically presented his daughter, Princess Ngoc Van, to the Cambodian King, King Chey Chetha II. At that time, King Chey Chettha was 42 years old and already married. King Chey Chettha accepted the offering from Nguyen Lord to build a relationship of mutual interest between Cambodia and Nguyen Lord. King Chey Chettha thought that with his relationship with Nguyen Lord, Siam would give up their influence and encroachment on Cambodia territory. Unfortunately, he did not know that his political marriage with the Vietnamese princess started to fall into the Nguyen Lord’s strategy called the “March to the South”

In 1623, aided by Queen Ngoc Van’s intervention, the Nguyen warlord sent Vietnamese delegates to ask the Court of Udong to grant permission for the Vietnamese people to conduct trade in Preah Sourkea (Baria), Prei Nokor (Sai Gon), and Chonva Tropeang (Bien Hoa) provinces. Obliged through his marriage, King Chey Chettha II gave trade permission and allowed the Vietnamese people temporary settlement in those provinces.

This was the first time that the Vietnamese obtained a foothold in Kampuchea-Krom and began their ambitious expansion plans toward the South in which the Kingdom of Champa became their first target.

The Fabricated and Distorted History by the Vietnamese Government

In recent years, the Vietnamese Association of Historical Sciences published a book entitled Brief History of the Southwestern Territory of Vietnam, in which many historical “facts” were fabricated and distorted with regard to the history of the indigenous Khmer-Krom peoples in Kampuchea-Krom.

Vietnam keeps claiming that Kampuchea-Krom was a wasted vast land. The Vietnamese ancestors came to cultivate this land and have made it becoming the prosperous land as today. Vietnam totally ignores the facts that the Khmer-Krom people have lived on their ancestral lands way before the Vietnamese arrived. Their temples and historical sites were built in this land over thousand years. If Kampuchea-Krom have Khmer-Krom living there before Vietnamese arrived, it could not be claimed that this land has no owner. If this land had no owner, the Cham people in Champa Kingdom already moved down to live on this land while the Nguyen Lord had been gradually annexed their Kingdom.

It is time for the Vietnamese historian and government to start accepting the truth just like the western historians and government. In America, Australia, Canada, students are allowed to learn about the true history of their countries. Teach the true history does not mean that it would invoke the revenge, but it actually does to prevent the history to be repeated. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese government still does not think that way. They believe in using force to threaten the Khmer-Krom students to learn the fabricated history that they wrote for Khmer-Krom students to study.

Eliminating the Khmer-Krom Identity

Vietnam signed to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) on September 13, 2007, but Vietnam refused to accept the existence of the Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam and just called them as “ethnic minority” to tactically refusing implementing the rights of the Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam.

Vietnam does not allow Khmer-Krom people to call be called as “Khmer-Krom”. The tourists will not know that the temple or village of the “ethnic Khmer minority” that they are visiting belong to the Khmer-Krom.

Since 2004, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom (KKF) has brought the Khmer-Krom’s issues regarding to the basic human rights violations committed by the Vietnamese government to the International spotlight at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). The Vietnamese government accused the KKF for presenting the falsity evident to the forum and refused to have the open dialog to resolve the Khmer-Krom’s issues.

Under pressure from international community and governments, Vietnam has started implement some programs to help the Khmer-Krom. Vietnam allows for Khmer-Krom students to study their own language about 2 to 3 hours a week in their boarding schools that have only the Khmer-Krom students study. Not all the public schools where the Khmer-Krom people habitat have their language classes.

Vietnam also has Khmer program on its propaganda television channel. Even the program is broadcasted in Khmer for the Khmer-Krom to watch, but the Vietnamese government does not allow the Khmer-Krom reporters to call the names of their villages, districts, or provinces in their own language, but in Vietnamese. It shows that the Vietnamese government is implementing a hidden agenda to brainwash the Khmer-Krom younger generation to forget calling their villages, districts, and provinces in their own language, and to gradually erasing their identity and history.

When will Vietnam Accept the Truth?

Vietnam always says that the Vietnamese and the Khmer-Krom people have “thousand years of friendship”. In reality, the friendship between the Vietnamese and the Khmer-Krom is a one way friendship. The Khmer-Krom has no voice in their relationship with the Vietnamese.

Vietnam has received billion dollars from extracting the crude oils from Kampuchea-Krom’s sea in O-Kap (Vung Tau) province. The Khmer-Krom farmers in Mekong Delta have helped Vietnam become the second country of the world in exporting rice. Vietnam has gained million dollars from exploiting the Khmer-Krom temples, sacred sites, tradition sports (boat racing, ox racing), and Khmer-Krom cultural events, to lure the foreign tourists visiting Mekong Delta. Unfortunately, the Khmer-Krom people just receive very little benefits that the Vietnamese government has provided to them. Whatever Vietnam helps Khmer-Krom, Vietnam uses it to propagate to the world that Vietnam helps the Khmer-Krom.

The Khmer-Krom youths keep dropping out school to look for works in big cities. The Khmer-Krom people are still the poorest of the poor in Mekong Delta.

The true friendship between the Vietnamese and the Khmer-Krom people only could be achieved if it is built upon honesty for constructional dialogs and respect for the truth. The Khmer-Krom people have contributed too much to the current economy of Vietnam and have made Mekong Delta to be one of the attractive places for foreigners coming to invest and visit.

Unfortunately, the Khmer-Krom people still live in fear and have no basic rights as mentioned in the Vietnam constitution or UNDRIP.

When would Vietnam recognize a day as a Thanksgiving Day to honestly and truthfully thank the Khmer-Krom as its national holiday so the Khmer-Krom can live freely from fear and oppression?