Wednesday, February 28, 2007 50 Monks Stage Protest Near Vietnamese Embassy By Yun Samean THE CAMBODIA DAILY “We want to meet [Nguyen Minh Triet] face-to-face and ask him to stop defrocking monks and pressuring the Khmer Kampuchea Krom” – Khmer Krom Monk Son Hai In a rare public demonstration tolerated by police, some 50 ethnic Khmer monks from Vietnam protested near the Vietnamese Embassy on Tuesday morning against the alleged defrocking of nine monks following anti-government protests in southern Vietnam. More than 50 plain-clothed and intervention police officers, some armed with AK47 rifles and tear gas, surrounded the monks for much of the four-hour protest, which coincided with Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet’s arrival in Cambodia on Tuesday. Son Hai, a 26-year-old monk who claimed he recently fled Vietnam, said the monks timed their protest with the president’s two-day visit to attract maximum attention. “We want to meet [Nguyen Minh Triet] face-to-face and ask him to stop defrocking monks and pressuring the Khmer Kampuchea Krom,” he said. The loss of Kampuchea Krom, the territory which is nowadays southern Vietnam but was formally part of the Khmer empire, is a highly emotive issue for many Cambodians while some members of the Khmer Krom community, ethnic Khmers living in southern Vietnam, periodically claim discrimination and persecution by Vietnamese authorities. Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said he has not been informed of the defrocking or monks, adding that the allegation seemed unlikely. “The Vietnamese government never defrocks any Khmer Krom monks,” he said. “The government respects religious rights.” He also said the demonstration would not affect relations between the two countries. The protest started when 10 monks arrived by motorbike taxi at the embassy at 8:30 am, but police told them to walk north along Monivong Boulevard, where they joined some 40 more monks at the intersection with Mao Tse Tung Boulevard. The monks then sat down near the intersection, located around 70 meters from the embassy, and refused to move. Police confiscated two pro-Khmer Krom banners though no one was arrested. At around 9:20 am, Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth unsuccessfully ordered the monks to return to their pagodas, saying they didn’t have permission to protest. “For the country and [King Norodom Sihamoni’s] reputation, I must protect the King’s guest,” he said of the visiting Vietnamese leader. “If something happens, [Vietnamese officials] would not return to Cambodia again.” At about 11:30 am, plainclothes police tried to force the monks onto buses, shoving some monks in the process. Both sides pushed each other and shouted loudly, and several monks said they would sacrifice their lives rather than go with the police. At around 12:30 pm, the monks finally agreed to return to their pagodas with UN and Licadho officials in two separate trucks as police stood by. Interior Ministry spokesman lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said he was unaware of the protest and declined further comment. Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment. Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said she was happy there had been no violence, but accused police of a “gross show of force” in dealing with the monks. SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said it seemed “a bit strange” that the government had allowed the protest to occur given its previous track record on blocking public demonstrations. The government likely allowed the monks’ protest to avoid being seen to be under the influence of Vietnamese authorities, he said. Sao Chanthol, chief monk at Wat Langka, said such protests were against Buddhist discipline, and that some of his monks had participated. If the monks continue to hold demonstrations, he warned he will defrock them. (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish.)
2007-02-27 Below is an article published by Reuters; PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Fifty Cambodian Buddhist monks protested outside the Vietnamese embassy on Tuesday, calling on the communist-run nation’s visiting president, Nguyen Minh Triet, to allow greater freedom of religion. More than 100 riot police armed with electric-shock batons and AK-47 rifles lined up outside the compound as officials tried to persuade the saffron-robed monks to leave. One civilian bystander was arrested for shouting. “I don’t understand why police caught me just because I was expressing my opinion against arresting monks,” 24-year-old Phat Ha told Reuters as he was led away. The monks accused police in southern Vietnam of arresting and disrobing nine ethnic Cambodian Buddhist monks. “We want the Vietnamese authorities to give them the right to practice Buddhism,” one of the monks, Hol Pirom, told Reuters. Triet was due to meet King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday at the start of a two-day state visit to its Southeast Asian neighbour. He will also hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who fled to Vietnam in the late 1970s before returning with the 1979 invasion that brought an end to Pol Pot’s four-year reign of terror. Appointed prime minister of the Hanoi-backed regime in 1985, Hun Sen has been criticised frequently by nationalists as being pro-Vietnamese. However, he says he is merely normalising relations with one of his country’s most important trading partners. Vietnam denies accusations by international human rights groups that it represses human rights and religious freedoms. The government has an official policy of a citizen’s right to “belief or non-belief”. Related Link Nhà sư Khmer Nam bộ tiếp tục biểu tình ở Phnom Penh
Dozens of Buddhist monks joined a demonstration Tuesday to demand more religious freedom of a minority ethnic group living in Vietnam. 27/02/2007 Chun Sakada VOA Khmer Washington The demonstration, organized by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights Organization, was held outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh and coincided with the start of the three-day official visit of Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet. Cambodian Buddhist monks shout during a demonstrate near the Vietnamese Embassy in the capital Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007 Recently, Vietnamese authorities defrocked nine monks belonging to the ethnic group after the monks reportedly asked for religious and literary freedoms and the return of ancestral land, upsetting activist groups in Cambodia. More than 100 police armed with electric prods and AK-47s dispersed demonstrators, calling the assembly illegal. Opposition party legislator Keo Remy, meanwhile, said the demonstration should push Vietnam to consider more religious freedoms for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people, more than 1 million of whom live in the Mekong Delta region of Cambodia’s neighbor. Nearly 1,000 schoolchildren waving Cambodian and Vietnamese flags greeted the president, who is expected to meet with King Norodom Sihamoni, Senate leader Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen. KKF Note Contrary to this report state 1 million Khmer Krom, KKF figures show there are over 8 million Khmer Krom people in Kampuchea-Krom. Please see Khmer Krom People Statistics for more details.
26 Feb 2007 By Ros Sokhit Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy of KI Media The Vietnamese authority forced 3 Khmer Krom monks to defrock last Saturday, and accused them of acting as leaders in a demonstration against the communist regime. Monk Thach Bin, a representative of the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) in Cambodia, told RFA on Wednesday that the 3 monks forced to defrock are: Monks Kim Moeun, Thach Deur, and Thach Svieng Hea. The three monks reside in a pagoda in Khleang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese), in Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam). The Vietnamese authority released 4 monks among the 9 monks arrested by the Vietnamese authority last Friday. However, the other 5 monks are still being jailed [by the Viet authority]: “I am informing you that up to now, the Viet authority has released 4 monks.” Recently, two organizations: the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Defense, and the KKF call on the Cambodian government to intervene with the Vietnamese authority to put to an end the arrest of Khmer Krom monks, and forcing them to defrock. Mu Sochua, SRP Secretary-General, said that the action taken by the Viet authority is a serious violation on the religious freedom which is protected by international conventions. Mu Sochua said: “The SRP condemns the violation of the rights of Buddhist Kampuchea Krom monks, and SRP respects and recognizes our Khmer Kampuchea Krom brothers and sisters as Cambodians who are victims of religious persecutions perpetrated against our Monks.” Up to now, RFA could not contact the Vietnamese authority for clarification on this issue. In the past, the Cambodian authority used to say that it would not ignore this issue. Frequently, Khmer Kampuchea Krom associations and Khmer Kampuchea Krom people have accused the Vietnamese authority of violating their rights and freedom of expression and religious belief.
Monday, February 26, 2007 By Pin Sisovann and Emily Lodish THE CAMBODIA DAILY The SRP has issued a statement condemning the alleged defrocking last week of three Khmer Krom monks in Vietnam’s Soc Trang province as a breach of their basic human rights. Several Khmer Krom associations have claimed that the monks were defrocked by Vietnamese authorities Thursday after participating in alleged anti-Hanoi demonstrations in southern Vietnam. “SRP considers the acts of the Vietnamese authorities in strong violation of the religious rights of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom,” the SRP said in a statement Friday. SRP Secretary-General Mu Sochua said Sunday that her party will “be part of any action or movement to protect the religious rights of Khmer Kampuchea Krom,” adding, “this is a very strong movement. Mu Sochua said she had no concern that the SRP’s position would provoke strong sentiments against ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia. “We’re talking about religious rights,” she said. Nguyen Son Thuy, counselor at the Vietnamese Embassy, said Hanoi has issued no order to defrock the monks, adding that any tension in Soc Trang has been caused by a misunderstanding between the monks and local authorities. He added that the Vietnamese government is not abusing the rights of Khmer Krom living in Vietnam. Ang Chanrith, executive director of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization, alleged that border police in Takeo province have been told to tighten restrictions on admitting Khmer Krom. “[Police] are stricter than before,” he said. Dozens of Khmer Krom have entered Takeo in recent days claiming to be fleeing Vietnam and, according to Ang Chanrith, four Khmer Krom monks arrived in Cambodia on Saturday and Sunday after fleeing Vietnam. Ang Chanrith claims that the order to tighten restrictions at the border is likely a response to plans for a pro-Khmer Krom demonstration in Phnom Penh for which he plans to seek permission from the Interior Ministry today. Meas Sophoan, police chief of Takeo’s Kiri Vong district, said there has been no order for his officers to stop Khmer Krom from entering Cambodia. “The border is closed for non-document passengers,” which is in accordance with the law, he said. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Khmer Krom are welcome in Cambodia if they have proper documentation and intend to live peacefully.
Friday, February 23, 2007 By Yun Samean THE CAMBODIA DAILY A Khmer Krom association has warned the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh that it will hold a “massive demonstration” against Hanoi if it defrocks three Khmer Krom Buddhist monks. According to a statement issued by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association to the embassy Monday and obtained Thursday, the demonstrations will take place “in Cambodia and other countries” if the “Vietnamese authorities followed through on defrocking three monks in Vietnam’s Soc Trang province. Association president Youen Sin alleged by telephone that the three monks—Kim Moeun, Tach Doeur and Thach Svinhear—were defrocked at 2 pm in Soc Trang province Thursday, though he said the date for the protest has not yet been set. The statement claimed the monks have been targeted by Vietnamese authorities as ringleaders in alleged anti-Hanoi demonstrations in Vietnam. The association will today ask permission to protest from Phnom Penh municipality, Youen Sin said. “If we get permission, we will hold the demonstration right away,” he added. Vietnamese Embassy counselor Nguyen Son Thuy said he didn’t know about the statement or the monks being defrocked, but said human rights in Vietnam are protected. “I can assure you that there is no oppression in Vietnam,” he said “Khmer Kampuchea Krom are treated well.” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said any request to demonstrate needs to go through the municipality. Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said the Khmer Krom must also ask the Interior Ministry for permission to protest. San Savang, director of the Friends of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, said his organization and four others met with a UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative Thursday morning about the dozens of Khmer Krom who have crossed the border in recent weeks. “We want the UNHCR to intervene with the government and help us provide the Khmer Kampuchea Krom with food and shelter,” he said. UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Sturkenboom said the agency listened to the groups and asked them to submit their requests in writing. “We offered to convey their message to the government,” she said, but added that it is beyond UNHCR’s mandate to do much more given the government’s policy that Khmer Krom are Cambodian citizens. (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish.)
22 Feb 2007 By Keo Pech Metta Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata Buddhist Khmer Krom people as well as the administrators of the Serey Ta Sek pagoda, located in Chrauy Nho district, Khleang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese), Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam), sent a petition the religious clergy and the Vietnamese authority not to defrock 2 Buddhist monks from the Serey Ta Sek pagoda. Those who signed the petition believed that the 2 monks have not done anything wrong against Buddhist law to earn such defrocking. A monk from Kampuchea Krom who declined to give his name and who is acting as a representative of the Serey Ta Sek pagoda assembly, told RFA by phone that according to Buddhist customs, a monk can be defrocked only if he contravene Buddhist law. However, in the case of the 2 monks from Serey Ta Sek pagoda, they are only suspected of leading a demonstration participated by 200 student-monks so that they can go out to beg for their alms on 08 Feb 2007. Source: KI MEDIA
What was thought to be an agreement reached between Khmer Buddhist monks and Vietnamese officials has turned out yet to be another empty promise made by authorities as they continued to disrobe all eight Khmer Krom Buddhist monks held in their custody yesterday. Amongst the monks disrobed were Venerable Kim and Venerable Son who were forced to lock themselves in the main building of Tra Set temple for two days in protest of their innocence. Over two hundred military officers then surrounded the temple early Wednesday morning, effectively cutting all forms of food, water and communication access. The tension ended yesterday after Vietnamese authorities agreed to a peaceful truce and talks. Lured by a possible solution, both monks and several others allowed themselves to be guided to another meeting place. Later that evening, however all monks were effectively disrobed and returned home. Their fate as civilians for the alleged crime of conducting non violent demonstration remains unknown. A report by RFA in the Khmer program on 22 February has captured the last words of Venerable Kim prior to his arrest, in which he proclaimed that he would set himself alight if the Vietnamese authorities did not uphold their promises of not disrobing further monks. The promise was not kept by Vietnamese authorities and he is now disrobed. As tensions increase amongst the Khmer Krom community in Kampuchea-Krom, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation has called on all international organisations, NGOs and governments to help resolve this issue. In particular, KKF President, Mr. Thach Ngoc Thach has called among His Excellency the King of Cambodia and the current Prime Minister to help their fellow compatriots who are facing dire situations. One Religious Head of Cambodia has refused to help, claiming that this is too political to be involved. Many Khmer Krom people have been heart broken with the news and are working together to bring some form of justice for these former Buddhist monks. Listen to RFA report on 22/2/07 Related: Khmer Krom people petition to stop the defrocking attempt on two monks by the VN authority
20 Feb 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy of KI Media “If they want to defrock me, let them defrock me inside the pagoda; if they want to shoot and kill me, let them shoot and kill me as a monk; if they want to jail me, let them jail me as a monk. If they want to defrock me, I absolutely refuse.” – Khmer Krom monk Kim Mean, threatened to be defrocked by the VN authority A source from Phnom Penh affiliated with the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) international, claimed that the Vietnamese authority is persisting on defrocking two Khmer Krom monks on Tuesday. The Vietnamese accuses the two of demonstrating against the Vietnamese authority. Monk Thach Binh, an assistant for the KKF, indicated that the Khmer Krom monks involved are 22-year-old monk Kim Mean, and 27-year-old monk Thach Duoc, the two are fourth-year students attending Buddhist teaching at Khleang pagoda, Khleang province (Soc Trang in Vietnamese), Kampuchea Krom (current South Veitnam). Contacted by phone in Kampuchea Krom, monk Kim Mean said that the Vietnamese authority removed his name from the Buddhist teaching school in Khleang pagoda, and forced him to return to Serey Ta Sek pagoda, Chrauy Nho district, where he was first ordained, so that he can be defrocked: “They (Viet authority) forced me to return to Serey Ta Sek pagoda, but I refused. If they want to defrock me, let them defrock me inside the pagoda; if they want to shoot and kill me, let them shoot and kill me as a monk; if they want to jail me, let them jail me as a monk. If they want to defrock me, I absolutely refuse.” Monk Thach Duoc added: “They do not allow my older brother to study Buddhism. They came and tied him up, they have legal and stamped papers, and earlier today, the Viet authority along with some religious officials, came to my pagoda, they arrested and tied up my older brother in Serey Ta Sek pagoda.” Monk Thach Binh said the 2 monks are accused by the Viet authority of acting as leaders during the 08 Feb demonstration. On that day, the Viet authority prevented 200 monks from Khleang province (Soc Trang) from getting out of the pagoda to beg for alms, the 2 accused monks were the ones who protested the Viet authority, asking them to abide by the law. Monk Thach Thon who works with the Viet authority, and is the deputy Buddhist monk chief in Khleang province, declined to provide a comment to RFA. Monk Thach Binh of the KKF condemns the defrocking attempt on the 2 Khmer Krom monks, saying that this is a blatant violation of the law: “It is totally against the law, against the Viet constitution, against the monk rites and customs. The Viet constitution states that Vietnamese people has the right to worship their religious belief, it’s on page 67, article 30 of the Viet constitution which talks about the rights to speech… Secondly, the two monks did not do anything serious to earn their defrocking.” Lately, several protests against the Viet authority were held by Khmer Krom people and Khmer Krom monks. These protests were held to demand back the land the Viet authority illegally expropriated from Khmer Krom people. Khmer Krom people are also demanding for freedom, and the respect of their culture and religion.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 By Yun Samean THE CAMBODIA DAILY The Cambodian Red Cross will investigate whether 47 ethnic Khmers, who fled Vietnam and are now camped in a field in Takeo province, require humanitarian assistance, officials said Monday. Groups of Khmer Krom have been arriving from Vietnam over the last two weeks, saying they are fleeing economic hardship and mounting tension after alleged anti-Hanoi demonstrations in southern Vietnam. CPP lawmaker Treung Thavy said she asked last week for Takeo’s provincial Red Cross office to assess their needs. “I have heard they are facing difficulties,” Treung Thavy said, “so I want the Red Cross to check whether it is true or not The Red Cross can provide humanitarian aid.” Takeo provincial Red Cross deputy director Ith Sarun said he would visit the group and that if they are facing hardship or food shortage, the Red Cross would help regardless of the group’s ethnic background. Cambodian Red Cross Deputy Director Ouk Damry said that if other aid organizations were providing support to the group, the Red Cross, whose president is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife Bun Rany, would not. San Savang, director of Friends of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, who is supporting the group, said he would go Thursday to Phnom Penh to present their case to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “UNHCR can help the Montagnards. They must also help Khmer Kampuchea Krom,” San Savang said, referring to the thousands of members of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities who have fled as refugees to Cambodia since 2001. Inge Sturkenboom, spokeswoman for the UNHCR, said that were San Savang to present the case of the 47 Khmer Krom, UNHCR would refer them to the Red Cross and the Cambodian government. “We are mandated to deal with refugees and have been told specifically by the Cambodia government that Khmer Krom are not refugees but Khmer citizens,” she said. Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that if the 47 Khmer Krom are living peacefully in Cambodia they will be allowed to remain. If, however, “they are using Cambodian territory to oppose a sovereign country, they will face Cambodia law,” he said. (Additional reporting by Emily Lodish.)