BANGKOK-PARIS-GENEVA, July 24, 2012. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH and OMCT joint programme) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) condemn the resolution passed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) overturning a previous decision to grant consultative status to the non-governmental human rights organisation Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF).
In May 2012, ECOSOC’s Committee on Non-governmental Organisations, in a consensus decision, approved KKF’s application for special consultative status with the Council. Vietnam protested strongly against the decision. On July 23, member States of ECOSOC, in a vote of 27 in favour to 14 against, with 10 abstentions, adopted a resolution to rescind that decision. The resolution was tabled by Vietnam along with El Salvador and fellow ASEAN member States Burma, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
In a joint letter (1) issued on July 18, 2012, the Observatory, along with 12 international and regional human rights groups across the globe, urged ECOSOC member states to oppose the draft resolution and to “support the ability of civil society organisations to freely participate in the work of the United Nations”. Special consultative status is granted to non-governmental organisations that “have a special competence in, and are concerned specifically with, only a few of the fields of activity covered by the Council and its subsidiary bodies, and that are known within the fields for which they have or seek consultative status”.
Before the vote, representatives of Cuba, Indonesia, Philippines, Lao PDR, Nicaragua, Russia, and Venezuela took to the floor in support of the resolution. On the other hand, the United States and Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed their opposition to the resolution. “It was not appropriate to oppose accreditation for an organization simply because it expressed views different from those of Governments represented on the Council”, said the representative of Ireland.
“It is shameful that many UN member states caved in to Vietnam’s pressure and became an accomplice in stifling the rightful voices of human rights defenders. It sends a chilling signal to the people in Vietnam that the international community is not on their side in their quest for greater freedom”, said Vo Van Ai, president of VCHR.
KKF is headquartered in the United States and conducts human rights advocacy globally. KKF aims, “through the use of peaceful measures and international laws, to seek freedom, justice, and the right to self-determination for the Indigenous Khmer-Krom Peoples”. It has an established track record in engaging with UN human rights mechanisms and providing valuable and quality information on abuses against the Khmer Krom minority group in Vietnam. Vietnam’s ambassador to the UN, Le Hoai Trung, labeled KKF’s activities as “politically motivated” and characterised KKF’s aim to seek freedom and justice for the Khmer people as a “grave offence” to the “sacred, national value” of national unity.
In the 2010 joint report Vietnam: From “Vision” to Facts: Human Rights in Vietnam under its Chairmanship of ASEAN, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) documented human rights violations against the Khmer Krom, including religious persecution, land confiscation, and excessive use of force. In the last five years, the Observatory and VCHR documented instances of arbitrary arrests and forced defrocking of Khmer Krom Buddhist monks in retaliation of their peaceful protests against religious persecution (2).
In another example of its diplomatic offensive against criticisms abroad, in September 2010, Vietnam lobbied the government of Thailand to obstruct a press conference in Bangkok where FIDH and VCHR were to launch their joint report on Vietnam (3). Vietnam’s hostilities against independent human rights defenders and groups at home and abroad are nothing new and reflect its consistently dismal human rights records, said FIDH and VCHR.
Vietnam intends to run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, which requires member States to uphold the highest human rights standards. “Before it is even elected to the Human Rights Council, Vietnam is already busy obstructing human rights groups from cooperating with the UN to promote human rights. This kind of intimidation must not be tolerated anywhere in the UN system”, said Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.
“The political intervention led by a coalition of Asean States overturning the decision of the competent committee excluding civil society access is an expression of fear to hear unpleasant truths and opinions. The basis of any commitment to human rights defenders is the recognition of their very existence and their right to speak and to be heard, and the states have failed in this test – Vietnam in the first place”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary-General of OMCT.
(2) FIDH and VCHR, Vietnam: From “Vision” to Facts: Human Rights in Vietnam under its Chairmanship of ASEAN, September 2010, pg. 25. Available at: http://www.fidh.org/VIETNAM-From-Vision-to-Facts-HUMAN or http://www.queme.net/eng/news_detail.php?numb=1353
(3) See, i.e., Observatory Press Release of September 13, 2010.