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Let Freedom Ring from Mekong Delta

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Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, delivered “I Have a Dream” speech. His dream has become true for the people, especially the African-American in America. People around the world have followed his dream to build the equality and democracy society for their countries. Unfortunately, the people in Vietnam, especially the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples in Mekong Delta, still do not have the basic freedom. They live under the regime that is controlled by a single party, the Vietnamese Communist Party. A country that is led by a single party never has the true democracy and freedom.

There are millions of Khmer-Krom people living on their ancestral homeland in Mekong Delta, but they are not allowed to form their own religious organization or any associations without interference from the government. Looking from outside, people would think that Vietnamese government does respect the basic rights of the Khmer-Krom because Vietnam has many programs to support them. In reality, Vietnam just tries to paint a rosy picture so the world does not see its discrimination policies committing against the Khmer-Krom.

Vietnam forces all the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and Buddhist followers to join the Patriotic United Buddhist Association (Hội Đoàn Kết Sư Sải Yêu Nước) under the umbrella of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS - Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Việt Nam) which is a Buddhist organization established by the Vietnamese government. Vietnam shows to the world that it allows the people freely practicing Buddhism because they have their own Buddhist organization. If there is an investigation about religious violations, Vietnam will use the representatives of VBS to talk to the investigators and try to show that there is nothing wrong in Vietnam regarding to religious freedom.

Vietnamese government does not recognize the Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam. The government labels the Indigenous Peoples as Minority. The government ties the term “Indigenous Peoples” to a political term because the Indigenous Peoples are the owner of their ancestral land. Since most of the lands in Vietnam belong to the Indigenous Peoples. For example, most of the Northwest used to belong to the Indigenous Tai Peoples; Central Highland used to belong to the Indigenous Degar Peoples, the Central used to belong to the Indigenous Cham Peoples; and the Southern part used to belong to the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples. Thus, Vietnamese government does not like the term of the Indigenous Peoples for that reason.

When the Indigenous Peoples stand up for their rights, Vietnam labels them as "Separatists" and accused them of "undermining the unity of the people in Vietnam". If Vietnam treats the Indigenous Peoples with justice polices, recognize the Indigenous Peoples’ rights as Vietnam signed to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, then the Indigenous Peoples will live peaceful along with the Vietnamese people as before April 1975. Vietnam should stop using that dirty trick to silence the Indigenous Peoples.

If Vietnam wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), then Vietnam should prove to the world that Vietnam stops arresting the peoples who stand up for their rights. Vietnam has arrested the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks, Venerable Lieu Ny and Venerable Thach Thuol, for more than three months without trial and allowing their family to visit.

IT IS TIME that Vietnam should allow the Indigenous Peoples to have the real freedom, because freedom is a right, not privilege that the Vietnam gives to them. The Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam “will not satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

IT IS TIME that the Vietnamese government should let the freedom start to ring in Vietnam beginning from Mekong Delta.