Tuesday, September 6, 2011

KKF Youths at the Tenth Session of UNPFII

At the Tenth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) from 16-27 May 2011, the KKF youth team from around the world attended the opening ceremony at the UN General Assembly and joined other Indigenous groups in congratulating Ms. Mirna Cunningham on being selected as the Chairperson of the UNPFII.  We had the privilege in hearing statements presented by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon and Mr. Sha Zukang, the Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  In their speeches, both stressed the importance of protecting and guaranteeing the rights of indigenous peoples as this is evident through the establishment of the Permanent Forum, adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the creation of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  

Our youth also attended side events hosted by various agencies; these included IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), Climate Change and Food Crisis, UNICEF’s event on the rights of indigenous children, as well as a Caucus meeting regarding water.  In addition, with the help and support of Indigenous Youth Caucus, our KKF team drafted and submitted a statement on water, which was read by Ricky Tran, newly elected co-chair of the Indigenous Youth Caucus, at the Permanent Forum. 
Many members of the KKF also took part in the celebration and recognition of the Maori people, which are the Indigenous group in New Zealand.  Movies, appetizers, and refreshments were enjoyed, as well as, expanded knowledge of other indigenous groups worldwide. 
Though not necessarily a part of UNPFII, UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) extended an invitation to KKF to give a presentation on the basic tools in forming grassroots organizations to the Hmong and Montagnard indigenous peoples. Serey Chau, who is a Director of the KKF Youth Committee, reiterated that we are not politicians; rather we are human rights activists.  Recognizing that we have a lot of similar struggles, new friendships were forged between members of KKF youth, Hmong, and Montagnard who agreed to collaborate and stand in solidarity for future endeavors.  Thus far, this is realized through the establishment of IPIV (Indigenous People in Vietnam) Forum on a social networking site, Facebook.
The KKF youth also attended a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People (Professor James Anaya) to advocate for the cessation of human rights abuse for Khmer-Krom and other indigenous groups from Asia.  Due to some administration oversights by UNPFII this year, we did not get to specifically give our statements regarding our unique cause, nevertheless, the team worked hard and each left with a greater understanding and the desire to do more to help Khmer-Krom achieve fundamental human rights. 

To say I was excited about attending the United Nations would be an under statement.  It had been a topic of debate and discussion in my undergrad studies, and to have been in the General Assembly was almost an out of body experience for me.  There was a sense of unity as I watched other indigenous groups in their traditional attire present their cases to the Forum.  We are not alone in our struggle for rights. There was great wealth of knowledge to be taken in at the United Nations and it was a great learning experience that I cannot get from any other place.  However, my fondest memories, which affected me the most while attending UNPFII, was the bond that was formed between our KKF Youth group.  We met Paul and Billy, who we are very grateful to for hosting us and providing our bodies with nourishments.  My favourite moment of the whole trip was when we sat around Billy and Paul’s dining table and each of us reflected about being Khmer-Krom.  We discussed Khmer-Krom’s history and shared our own thoughts and feelings about how each of us could contribute to move Khmer-Krom’s struggle for freedom and other inalienable rights forward. I came to UNPFII not knowing anybody but left with many great friends that I can now call family.
I’ll end with a quote that inspires me by Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." By: Lyben Lam

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I think that by now most of us have found our way back home from our racing and any extended sightseeing, and I wanted to send this out before we all got back to our busy lives and on to the next race.
First of all, I want to say how honored and grateful I am to have been a part of our Khmer-Krom Dragons. It was truly a pleasure paddling with all of you. Each race event has its own set of opportunities and complications, and each team develops its own dynamic as the event unfolds. The process of getting to know all of you, finding common ground, working together has been the best transformation this season has ever brought. With the two races before Tampa and in the four days we spent in Tampa, we managed what some of our competitors had been working on together, for months!! This is evident from our outstanding results, and even more so from the very nice emails that have been sent around this past couple of weeks. We raced against the top teams in their own backyard, and they had a much larger base to draw from for their crews with much less, or no, cross rostering. Yet we were right there in the hunt in the two divisions in every heat! Several of our races were some of the best I have ever been a part of, and as I said at the site, that “giddy” feeling that is almost spiritual of a perfectly executed race does not come all that often. Hardware at a world event is hard to come by, and our Premier Mixed and Open crews earned our fair share. Be proud everyone! 
In addition, to all of us that were just responsible for getting in the boat and paddling, there are several individuals that I wanted to say a special thank you to for making this such a positive experience for us all.
First, to all the adults (for fear of forgetting anyone I will collectively call them “adults”) responsible for coordinating all the races we have participated in, who has spent literally hundreds of hours creating lists, spreadsheets, submit rosters, and sending emails to make sure that everything we did happened when it needed to. They have made the job easier by a hundred fold and we could not have managed without them. Thanks “adults”!!!! Also thanks for making us look good with our awesome uniform. I am looking forward to having my next one.
Thank you to the Khmers Kampuchea Krom Federation (KKF) in its entirety, the KKF Chapters of Florida, they did everything from housing, food, shuttle arrangements and the never ending cheers that carried us all the way to the finish line. A very special thanks also goes to our own KKF Chapter and the Khmer-Krom community in Washington State for their tireless support of the team for every race endeavors we pursue. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! We could not have done it without you.
Thanks also to those that got grabbed from whatever they were doing to help out with the endless “what if” scenarios while we were in Tampa.
We also owe a big thanks to our helmsmen Ken Lam and Richard Cao who both did an outstanding job maneuvering the race course. They did an absolutely awesome job from the first day of practice through the final turns of the 2000m. Your focus in the boat helped bring our crews together that much faster. The bottom line is that our ability to have confidence in each other from the front to the back of the boat allowed the paddlers to focus on their jobs, and this alone is worth seats in every race.
Finally, thanks to everyone, for that willingness to be part of a team is what creates our success. Great job everyone!
I’m looking forward to the next race. This is the best part of being a part of Khmer-Krom Dragons finding new friends, or maybe getting to know old friends a little bit better. And for me that means more than anything.
Cheers until next time! By: Cel