Delivered By Kok Ksor
Ladies and Gentlemen:
First, I would like to express my very deep appreciation and thanks to Dr. Quan Nguyen and his committee for inviting me to join all of you today on the Commemoration of Vietnam Human Rights Day.
Never, has it been more important now than for all of us who desire true freedom for Vietnam to stand together and ensure the message of Vietnam’s human rights defenders who suffer in Vietnam – is today heard in Washington. We the Degar people also want to make it clear to the international community that we seek peaceful solutions to the problems facing our people and must stand strong in preventing outdated propaganda created by the communist regime in Hanoi to divide and conquer us, the dissident organizations who cry out for a free Vietnam. We the Degar people do not hate ethnic Vietnamese people and nor do we want them to leave our ancestral homelands because they are different race from ours. As many of our people are Christian believers, we understand completely that if God created us then God created all human beings and if God loves us then God loves all humans that thus this planet is for all people to enjoy.
We also note that before the French left Indochina in 1954, our tribal leaders were asked if we wanted to live separately, or do we want to live with the Vietnamese people. Our leaders then decided to live with the Vietnamese people and we note the following quotes from official 1950 documents of Emperor Bao Dai which states, “Pursuant to the wishes expressed by the representatives of the Montagnard populations on May 26, 1950 in Kontum, on June 5, 1950 in Pleiku, on June 10, 1950 in Darlac, on June 26, 1950 in Haut Donnai.” These words here show that our leaders wished to live with the Vietnamese people.
The Degar Church and its people state clearly that they do not wish to overthrow the Vietnamese government and nor do they seek to establish an independent state. We reiterate that even if we so desired such it is impossible for a population of less than a million and without armed forces to overthrow a government with a population of over 80 million who has also hundreds of thousands of fully armed soldiers at its command.
We state the Degar people who are house church Christians, traditional animists and Catholics living throughout the Central Highland region are indigenous tribal people and we cannot understand how anyone could believe such allegations perpetrated by the Vietnamese authoritarian government. However, the problem today is that the Vietnamese communist government is not respecting our human, civil, and political rights and this is resulting in ethnic discord between our peoples. The US State Department in its latest Human Rights report of March 6, 2007 on Vietnam reported that, longstanding societal discrimination against ethnic minorities remained a problem. As you can see the problem is not because of Degar people but the Vietnamese communist government itself.
We must stand strong against this and show to the regime in Hanoi that we are united in calling for human rights changes in Vietnam and that such human rights changes must coincide also with Vietnam’s developing economic changes.
Today the media is describing Vietnam as an emerging tiger and the US trade lobby is calling for expanding economic and diplomatic ties. We all desire economic prosperity for Vietnam but we are all faced here today with the prospect of convincing the authoritarian and brutal regime in Hanoi that they must also adopt international human rights practices and release their outdated authoritarian control over the people of Vietnam.
On behalf of the Degar people I hope and pray that all of us can find the way to support each other in promoting freedom, human rights and democracy for all the citizens of Vietnam – as it is these qualities which have made the United States a great and prosperous nation. Let’s work together to bring the same qualities of freedom to Vietnam.