Two important events took place on September 14-15, 2013 in San Jose, California, USA. The first part of the event was held Saturday, September 14, 2013 at Le Petit Trianon Theatre organized by The Council for Social and Cultural Development of Champa (CSCD-Champa) of Sacramento, CA. The second event was the First Anniversary of the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Today’s Vietnam (CIP-TVN).
The first event was the debut of a Cham history book titled “Kingdom of Champa: the last 33 years of its history” authored by Cham scholar and researcher, Dr. Po Dharma. The book was written with meticulous research on over 100 materials. Dr. Po Dharma faced the challenge of sorting out truth from fiction in the effort to establish the reality of the events which took place during that period of time.
The author described how, in summary, the Kingdom of Champa was caught in the middle of the struggle for power between two Vietnamese warlords. On the south, there was the Governor Le Van Duyet, headquartered in Gia Dinh Thanh (Sai Gon) and on the north was Emperor Minh Mang, from the capital of Hue.
The court of Champa was split into two. Half of the court sided with Governor Le Van Duyet and the other aligned with Emperor Minh Mang.
After the Governor Le Van Duyet died in 1832, Emperor Minh Mang decided to wipe out the Kingdom of Champa from the map and punished all those who sided with Le Van Duyet. His scorched earth policy was so brutal and terrifying that none of the Cham who survived dared to rise up again. From that year onward, the Cham people have lost everything: lands, territories, identity, tradition, cultural heritage, and language to the point of no return. Today, no one seems to know their past. Most Cham people speak more Vietnamese language than their mother tongue. They have adopted the Vietnamese way of life more and more than their own.
After reading this history book, we all admire the great effort by Dr. Po Dharma for his book is a vital record of Cham history. For the last 20 years, Dr. Po Dharma has shed so much light on the history of the Champa Kingdom which enables the Cham new generation to know their past and appreciate and honor their own heritage. Meanwhile, this helps educate Vietnamese population in general and the government in particular to understand their own history as well.
The Panel Discussion
Immediately after the Book Debut, there was a panel discussion and Q&A session on the issues of indigenous peoples in Vietnam. There was a total of 6 panelists and a moderator. Among them were two representatives from Cham community, two Vietnamese, one Khmer-Krom, and one Montagnard. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Tai Dai An, former Director of the Minority Affairs for the Republic of South Vietnam before 1975.
The discussion was focused on:
- What constitutes indigenous peoples.
- What needs to be done to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples as based on the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” of September 2007.
The panelists consisted of:
- Musa Porome: President of the IOC, Vice President of CIP TVN
- Rong Nay: President of the MHRO, Vice President of CIP TVN
- Tai Dai An: Moderator of the Forum. Former Director of Minority Affairs in
the Republic of South Vietnam.
- Tan Dara Thach: President of the Supreme National Council of the Kampuchea-Krom, and President of the CIP TVN.
- Hoang The Dan: Representative of the Viet Tan Party, northern California Sector.
- Dr. Po Dharma: Author and researcher on Champa history and language.
- Nguyen Cong Bang: Secretary General of the Vietnam Populist Party (Dang Vi Dan) based in Houston, TX.
The live Forum discussion took place from 3:20 to 6:00 PM with about 120 attendees.
Mr. Tan Dara Thach, Nay Rong and Musa Porome emphasized that even though the government of Vietnam had endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but up to now, it had not recognized Khmer-Krom, Cham, and the Montagnards as indigenous peoples of Viet Nam yet. Consequently, implementation of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam as mandated has never been realized. Official translation of the document into Vietnamese and indigenous peoples’ languages by the government of Vietnam was not done either.
Dr. Po Dharma differentiated the meaning of the words “minority” and “indigenous peoples” and clarified the “statuses” and “rights” of these two different groups of people to the audience.
Mr. Nguyen Cong Bang, Secretary General of the Vietnam Populist Party, confirmed the political platform of his Party that it would respect the origin, history, culture, and aspiration of collective citizens. He was direct and offered apology for the past action of any Vietnamese governments that had wrongly done to indigenous peoples. He even offered help from his Party for activities that aims to regain the dignity for all indigenous peoples. He also encouraged indigenous peoples in Vietnam to struggle for their own rights and not to wait for the Vietnamese government to give to them those rights.
Mr. Hoang The Dan, representative of the Viet Tan Party, recognized the existence of indigenous peoples, and offered solutions by saying that allowing indigenous peoples to govern themselves in their own localities and having adequate representation of indigenous peoples in the central government were among the recommended policies.
At the end, Mr. Tan Dara, Nay Rong, Musa Porome, and Dr. Po Dharma came to a conclusion that a struggle for the rights as set forth in the UN Declaration must be launched regardless of the Vietnamese regime. They all believed that once the rights of indigenous peoples are honored and respected by the government as specified by the UN Declaration, political stability and peace were within reach. But until today, the VN government has not yet acknowledged the presence of indigenous peoples in Vietnam even though it had endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples earlier. Among many action items recommended during the discussion were those for the UN to work with the Vietnamese government. It was also recommended the CIP-TVN to send a letter to the government of Vietnam expressing the real aspiration of the Cham, Khmer-Krom and Montagnard peoples within the context of the UN Declaration.
. By Tu C. Nhuong
THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF CIP TVN
The first anniversary of the Council of Indigenous Peoples in Today’s Vietnam (CIP-TVN) took place at the San Jose Airport Hotel on September 15, 2013. There were about 40 members attending the event, who were from many states throughout the U.S. Representatives of Cham’s Khmer-Krom’s and the Montagnards’ organizations were present. Dr. Po Dharma, the Cham representative from France, was among attendees.
Per the agenda, the CIP-TVN President, Mr. Tan Dara Thach, accounted for the Council’s mutual effort in accomplishing the yearlong goals and thanked those who actively participated in realizing the tasks which included the following historical events:
– September 22-23, 2012: First Caucus of Indigenous Peoples in Vietnam – Formation of the Council of Indigenous peoples in Today’s Vietnam (CIP-TVN);
– December 30-31, 2012: Finalizing “Joint Statement” between all indigenous peoples members of the CIP-TVN;
– April 8-12, 2013: Advocacy mission to Washington, DC — meetings with high level staff from the U.S. State Department; U.S. Congressional offices; and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
– June 4-5, 2013: White House briefing on Human Rights violations in Vietnam and U.S. Congressional hearing on violations of religious freedom in Vietnam;
– July 8-12, 2013: Intervention made at the 6th Session of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva by CIP-TVN Delegation. In that occasion, the Joint Statement was read by the CIP-TVN President and posted on the UN website afterward;
– September 14, 2013: Champa History Book Debut and Forum in San Jose, California;
– Lastly, the development of the CIP-TVN website which is scheduled to be on-line by Oct. 2013. The past performance was reviewed and future strategic planning was discussed with recommended action.
Time for Special Recognition and Awards
At the end of the program, the CIP-TVN President recommended some distinct individuals to the board for their exceptional effort in helping accomplish the achievements above. Very humble awards were conferred upon recipients with sincerity and gratefulness. A photo-op was offered to mark the end of the First Anniversary. Everyone was looking forward to the 2nd Anniversary next year.