On behalf of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation, an indigenous organization representing millions of Khmer-Krom people living in Vietnam and abroad, we would like to appeal for your immediate attention to a religious prosecution occurring in the province of Soc Trang, Vietnam. Vietnamese authorities are currently attempting to arrest Venerable Kim Nguon, aged 22, Venerable Son Thy Thon, aged 21, both are residents of Tra Set temple. Their alleged crime was for participating in a non violence protest for freedom of religion on 8th February 2007. Venerable Kim Mean and Venerable Thach Doc, fourth year students of the Pali School in Soc Trang are also accused of leading the non violent protest against the Vietnamese authorities. If arrested, these Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks will be disrobed and prosecuted without trial. In this regards, we would like to urgently appeal to all governments, human rights organisations and NGOs to:
- Monitor the situation to ensure that the Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks are given a fair trial without being forced to disrobe.
- Pressure Vietnamese government to oblige in accordance to their constitution and United Nations Treaties.
- Urge the Prime Minister of Vietnam NGUYEN TAN DUNG to intervene by implementing measures to end arbitrary and unlawful persecution of these Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks.
- Ask that Vietnam respect the rights of Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks to practice their religion
- Acknowledge the right of individuals to take part in non violent demonstrations as a form of freedom of expression.
Background: Towards the end of 2006 and early 2007, there have been an increasing number of non violent demonstrations initiated by Khmer-Krom Buddhist monks and civilians alike to demand religious freedom and basic human rights. For example, several of the demonstrators have been prosecuted for lodging a complaint against illegal land confiscation by local Vietnamese authorities for their own personal gain. Numerous Buddhist monks who participated in such protests were placed under temple arrest for conducting demonstrations. In an effort to free these Buddhist monks, over two hundred monks from various Khmer temples across the Soc Trang province united to protest on February 8th 2007. Amongst the active participants were Venerable Kim Nguon and Venerable Son Thy Thon. Following the protest, the Vietnamese authorities then prohibited the monks from conducting further demonstrations and announced that they will arrest five Buddhist monks. Amongst them include Venerable Suon Bora, Venerable Thach Thi and Venerable Thach Đơ , who are currently in hiding and their whereabouts are unknown. The prosecution of these Khmer-Krom monks is a clear reflection of the increasing human rights and religion violations against the Khmer-Krom people. Unless something is done immediately, we believe there will continue to be civil unrest and which may potentially cause greater instability in the Asia-Pacific region.