NGO Vows Support for Rights of Khmer Krom

A European NGO said Tues­day it had accepted 15 ethnic Khmers from Kampuchea Krom as members and would press the Euro­pean Union to end its support of the current Vietnamese government.

The Khmer Krom are persecuted under the Vietnam’s communist government, but “will receive their freedom when our struggle succeeds,” former political party president and EU parliamentarian Marco Pan­nella said at a news conference Tuesday.

The Transnational Radical Party calls itself a political party as well as an NGO, and has about 3,000 members worldwide, said spokesman David Carretta. It states its primary aim as promoting democracy and fighting hu­man rights abuses.

At a news conference last week, Thach Setha, executive di­rector of the Khmer Kampu­chea Krom Com­munity, presented a re­port detailing offenses against ethnic Khmers living in central Viet­nam. Living conditions are survival-level and freedoms mostly quashed among the Khmer Krom, the report says. Monks are forced into duties, such as canal-digging, that go against their religious beliefs, it states.

“Serious human rights violations in Vietnam are worse than in [Burma],” it states. Parlia­mentarian Son Chhay gave the report to US Secretary of State Colin Powell during his visit to Phnom Penh last week.

Nyeing Thun Duc, a spokes­man for the Vietnamese Embas­sy, refused to comment on the report last week, saying he had not seen it.

Earlier this month King Noro­dom Sihanouk sent a letter to Thach Setha’s group agreeing to sign a petition asking France to annul a 1949 law ceding Kam­pu­chea Krom to Vietnam. The King said the petition also must be signed by the president of the National Assembly, the Senate and the prime minister.

The Transnational Radical Party has backed the King’s proposed petition and says it will lobby the National Assembly to sign it.

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