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A WORRYING SITUATION FOR THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF SOUTH EAST ASIA.

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BRUSELLS, Jul 1 2004 (IPS) - In mid-July the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will vote on whether to suspend for three years the Transnational Radical Party\’s (TRP) consultative status within the Council in response to a request by the Vietnamese Delegation to the UN, writes Emma Bonino deputy in the European Parliament and a leader of the Transnational Radical Party. In this article, Bonino writes that suspension would send a very unfortunate message regarding human rights in the area, particularly for the indigenous people of South East Asia. Vietnam believes that the TRP has abused its relationship with the UN by accrediting Kok Ksor, whom they allege to be a terrorist with a separatist agenda. Kok Ksor is a member of the Montagnards, the ethnic minority asylum seekers from Vietnam\’s Central Highlands, and is the President of the Montagnard Foundation Inc. (MFI), a non-profit organization registered in the US and dedicated to the preservation of Montagnard life and culture. MFI is not on any national or international list of terrorist organizations recognized by the EU, the US or the UN. Suspension the consultative status of the TRP will not only ban it from the UN system, but will also silence dozens of voices that, over the last several years, have been allowed to present their concerns before many UN bodies, starting with the Commission on Human Rights.

In mid-July the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) will vote on whether to suspend for three years the Transnational Radical Party’s (TRP) consultative status within the Council in response to a request by the Vietnamese Delegation to the UN. Suspension would send a very unfortunate message regarding human rights in the area, particularly for the indigenous people of South East Asia.

On 21 May 2004, after a two-year process, the 19-member United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (UNCNGO), which is part of ECOSOC, took action on the Vietnamese Delegation’s request, which was lodged in May 2002. The request was supported by nine delegations: China, Ivory Coast, Cuba, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Eight voted against: Cameroon, Chile, France, Germany, Peru, Rumania, United States and Turkey. Colombia and Senegal abstained.

Vietnam believes that the TRP has abused its relationship with the UN by accrediting Kok Ksor, whom they allege to be a terrorist with a separatist agenda. Kok Ksor is a member of the Montagnards, the ethnic minority asylum seekers from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, and is the President of the Montagnard Foundation Inc. (MFI), a non-profit organization registered in the US and dedicated to the preservation of Montagnard life and culture. It goes without saying that MFI is not on any national or international list of terrorist organizations recognized by the EU, the US or the UN.

For much of their history the Montagnards had little contact with the mainstream Vietnamese, who kept mostly to the coastal areas. They comprise a large number of distinct and recognisable aboriginal groups. Their population has dwindled from over three million about 100 years ago to a few hundred thousand today.

The Montagnards were first colonised by the French (1895-1954), who recognized their claim to these lands, defined their borders, and formalised their right to their own nation in 1946. After the French withdrew, the Vietnamese took over colonization of these lands, calling the people ‘moi’ or savages, and instituting intensive assimilation policies and genocidal practices.

Cultural leveling and particularly the harsh birth control measures forced on Montagnard women, is driving up the average age of their population and accelerating their extinction. Many of the Montagnard children today are half Vietnamese as a result of compelled mixed marriages. Private property and land of have been confiscated and distributed to ethnic Vietnamese as the Montagnards to barren areas where farming is almost impossible. Forced labour and slavery have been imposed on Montagnards regardless of age or gender. Extended families are broken up.

Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, has expressed concern about recent reports that law enforcement and security forces have been involved in serious breeches of Cambodia’s international obligations, including the forcible deportation of Montagnards who fled from the Highlands to Cambodia.

“It is worrying,” Leuprecht said, ”that the Foreign Minister recently stated that the government would deport Montagnards, whom he has labelled ”illegal immigrants”, without providing for an asylum process within Cambodia or allowing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the opportunity to assess the claims. It is of particular concern that the Foreign Minister has repeated unsubstantiated claims that the … UNHCR is smuggling asylum seekers into Cambodia rather than reaffirming the government’s commitment to its international obligations.”

Since 1995, the TRP has been active within the UN system promoting a variety of issues, ranging from the creation of the ad hoc Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda to the establishment of the International Criminal Court; from a moratorium on the death penalty to a free, open, and accountable Information Society; from the promotion of democratic reforms to the exposure of systematic human rights violations.

In its work, the TRP –which all know is a non-violent organization– has collaborated with many governments as well as non-governmental organizations, including MFI. For almost three years now, thanks to the work of MFI, the TRP has been able to compile in-depth reports on the worrying human rights situation in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, which have been presented to the UN, the European Union, and the US Congress as well as to major NGOs. These dossiers have consistently triggered official public statements calling on Vietnam to open the region for a comprehensive assessment of the situation. A final decision on the Vietnamese request will be taken by the members of ECOSOC at the substantive session in July 2004.

Suspension the consultative status of the TRP will not only ban the Transnational Radical Party from the UN system, but will also silence dozens of voices that, over the last several years, have been allowed to present their concerns before many UN bodies, starting with the Commission on Human Rights. (END/COPYRIGHT IPS)

 
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