By Melanie Ly
Washington D.C.- On June 4th, 2013, there was a peaceful demonstration in Washington D.C. by the Khmer Krom people from all different parts of the United States. The news of this was only mentioned just a week before the actual event but due to the quick works by social media, word got out like rapid fire. As we walked off the bus and into the crowd, our brothers and sisters greeted us with warm welcomes and encouraging smiles.
Our purpose there was to let the Vietnamese government know that we are demanding that they released our Buddhist monks and to let us have our basic human rights. Vietnam have arrested, tortured, and held the monks against their will by accusing them of violations against the Vietnamese government.
It is our belief that everyone has the right to speak their mind and express their opinions and are free to live in line with those rights. The Buddhist monks just wanted to see the culture of our Khmer-Krom people thrive and be heard. They simply asked that the Khmer-Krom children receives a proper education in the language in which their ancestors have been taught and to be able learn about their own history.
The Vietnamese government defrocked Venerable Ly Chanda and is now holding Venerable Lieu Ny and Thach Thuol at unknown location.
The voices of the Khmer-Krom people during the protest got the attention of many civilians who were on their way to work and was received with an outpouring of support from Khmer-Kroms all over the world. Updates of what was happening, event by event, were constant by many of the protesters and the immediate responses via social media were encouraging. Some police officers showed up to see what the ruckus was all about but seeing that we were only having a peaceful protest, they just stood by and watched. With loud, determined voices and a strong clear purpose, I believe we got our point across. The Vietnamese government should be able to get a sense of what our Khmer Krom people want now!
We then proceeded to the congressional hearing for Venerable Danh Tol. The hearing was so packed that they had a room designated for the overflow. As the crew sat there quietly listening to the Venerable’s turn to speak, there was a slight feeling of anticipation.
Finally, after a few speakers, it was our turn. Venerable Danh Tol spoke in Khmer in which only our people could understand but you can feel the emotion behind his words. The translator did a fantastic job of using the right words to tell the story of the unjust torture by the Vietnamese government. After some back and forth dialogue between the chairman and other representatives, I noticed that there were many issues that led back to Venerable Danh Tol which gave him a few chances to elaborate more on the issues back home.
By the time everyone got home, we were exhausted but still smiling from the work that had been done that day. I appreciate everyone for giving their time to protest with us and also to the people who could not make it but kept spreading the word out and supporting us throughout the whole event. The Khmer Krom people are one of the strongest, most loving and caring people in the world.
We will achieve anything we want, together.