On 9 January, Kok Ksor, nonviolent leader of the indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, known as Degar, or Monatgnards in French, passed away. He was 75 years old.
He was also a tenacious and generous companion, a leading member of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational Transparty (NRPTT) as he sat in the General Council for many years.
Kok Ksor devoted his life to the advocay of fundamental rights of his people in the belief that all the Vietnamese would one day live in a democracy, free from the oppressions that curtail the freedom of thought, speech and religion in that country. Being of Christian faith and having sided with the United States in the Vietnam War, the Degar undergo harassment, persecution, violence which result in a slow cultural and physical genocide.
Born in 1945 in the province of Gia Lai, at the end of the war Mr. Ksor miraculously fled from the North Vietnamese and found shelter in the United States where he established the Montagnard Foundation Inc. which he chaired ever since. The main objective of the foundation was preserving the life, culture and fundamental rights of its people and Kok did so steadfastly in every possible venue, including the UN, where he tirelessly used to speak up against the abuses committed by Hanoi.
The UN is where Kok Ksor met the Radical Party. In 2000, while attending the UN Forum on Indigenous Peoples in New York, he came across NRPTT Representatives Marco Perduca and Matteo Mecacci and then with Marco Pannella with whom he immediately created an indestructible friendship, nurtured by mutual esteem and perseverance. Their devotion to the improvement of the conditions of the last ones was the key to their freindship. “TRP”, as Kok liked to call it, has since joined the commitment in favour of human rights in the Central Highlands, and Kok was an active supporter of the Radical Party by participating in many events, starting from the Congress of 2002 in Tirana, Albania.
The membership in the Radical Party sealed another friendship, the one between Kok Ksor and Sam Rainsy, the exiled leader of the Cambodian opposition. A friendship that in 2013 led to an agreement agreement stating that a future government in Cambodia led by the CNRP would implement the 2007 United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and protect the Montagnard refugees fleeing Cambodia. The Agreement was reaffirmed and strengthened again in the autumn of 2018, when Rainsy traveled to North Carolina to participate in a joint meeting between the Cambodian community and the Montagnard community. On that occasion Kok Ksor decided to postpone the treatment prescribed by his doctors, as he chose to put the survival of his people before his own health.
February 2014 was the last time Kok Ksor and Marco Pannella met. It was in Brussels, at the convention in the European Parliament “Rule of Law vs. Reason of State” where the foundations of the last battle of the Radical Party, for the recognition of the right to know, were laid. But the last meeting between Kok Ksor and the PRNTT took place in December 2017 when, already ill, he welcomed Laura Harth, UN Representative of the Radical Party, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in a visit to the Degar community to present a project to re-launch the Radical Party. Kok’s help came in the blink of an eye.
Kok Ksor’s passing is a sad loss. Just when people like him, with a strong mind and a big heart, are needed the most they go and leave us under at the mercy of autocrats and dictators. For this reason too, the Radical Party, the “TRP” of Kok Ksor, must keep up the good work done so far. The Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella” will be there too.
Our thoughts and friendship go to his family, his supporters and to the whole Degar community. Ciao Kok.