On April 8-10 2013, the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Today’s Vietnam carried out its first important advocacy mission to Washington, DC.
The delegation consisted of Tan Dara Thach, President, Vice Presidents Andrew Tu and Rong Nay, Council Members Kahleelah Porome, Kevin Champa, CamVan Tran, Anna Ksor Buonya, Dararoth Thach, and advisor, Kay Reibold.
The purpose of the trip was to introduce the Council and its mission to Members of the U.S. Congress, the U.S. State Department, and the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. The Council also sought guidance from U.S. policy makers about the United Nations’ mechanisms which can best promote the concerns of indigenous peoples in Vietnam.
Meetings took place with officials from the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Organizations, the East Asia Pacific Bureau, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Additional discussions took place with Congressional staff from the Committee on U.S. Senate Foreign Relations, the Office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR).
The delegation outlined the purpose of the Council and its mission to consolidate human rights advocacy on behalf of the shared interests of the Cham, Montagnard and Khmer Krom indigenous populations in Vietnam, and to urge the U.S. government to take a more active policy role with Vietnam in promoting the “UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” as it impacts the marginalized and persecuted Cham, Montagnard and Khmer Krom peoples in Vietnam and to highlight the persecution and ethnic cleansing experienced by all the indigenous peoples of Vietnam.
The meetings were well timed with the United States- Vietnam Human Rights dialogue which took place later in the week. The delegation requested that its urgent human rights concerns were included in the discussions and in each meeting delegation members documented specific examples of religious persecution, obstruction of free emigration, land grabbing, destruction of sacred and historic sites, and the Vietnam government policies of racial discrimination including the lack of educational opportunities abroad for indigenous students.
Recommendations were made that the United Nations and the U.S. Administration support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its on-going human rights dialogues and policy with the Government of Vietnam, bringing into focus the specific complaints and suffering of the indigenous populations. The Council also urged that the government of Vietnam publicize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on its official government websites and to include written and radio broadcast translations of the Declaration in the indigenous languages, as well as in Vietnamese language and English.
One of the Council members, Ms. Anna Buonya, a Montagnard American lawyer from Raleigh, NC USA, testified on April 1l, 2013, in a U.S. Congressional Hearing on “Human Rights Violations in Vietnam.” The live video can be seen at http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-highlighting-vietnamese-government-human-rights-violations-advance-us.
The Council will carry out future advocacy trips to the United Nations and continue policy advocacy with the U.S. Congress and the U.S. State Department, along with promoting refugee protection and refugee rights with UNHCR and all countries.
On June 3-4, 2013, a major “Vietnam Advocacy Day” is planned by the prominent refugee advocacy organization “Boat People S.O.S” and several hundred advocates from around the country will be in Washington, DC to promote human rights and democracy in Vietnam. Several CIP-TVN members will participate in the event.