On the 20th of July 2007, three delegates representing the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation and Dr. Joshua Cooper, KKF-UNPO Advisor headed to Capitol Hill, Washington DC and met up with several key Congressmen and Senators to discuss Khmer Krom issues. Mr. Tran Mannrinh, Mr. Lenny, Mr. Tran Giap and Dr. Joshua Cooper took the opportunity to inform the politicians of the increasing social and political unrest in Vietnam as well as recent events in Cambodia, including the recent disappearance of defrocked Venerable Tim Sakhorn. KKF delegates with Senator Daniel Akaka
The unfolding events in both countries have caused great concerns and attention amongst human rights groups and watchdogs including the United States Department. The defrocking of at least nine Buddhist monks in Khleang (renamed Soc Trang) in February has sparked protests around the world. The following issues were brought up by KKF delegates in their discussions to Mr. Chris Smith (NJ), Mr. Tom Lantos (CA), Mr. Neil Abercrombie (HI) and the Honourable Mr. Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Mr. Daniel Akaka (HI), Senators. Khmer Krom Buddhism:
- The trial on May 10, 2007 which saw five Khmer Krom Buddhist monks originally from Khleang (renamed Soc Trang) facing two to five years in prison.
- Khmer Krom Buddhist monks in Cambodia staged a peaceful demonstration at Vietnam Embassy and in front Royal Palace and were injured by the actions Tep Vong’s monks.
- Venerable Tim Sakhorn in Phnom Denh, Takeo province, Cambodia was ordered to disrobe and deported back to Vietnam. He is currently missing.
Khmer Krom in Vietnam:
- VN government tries to eliminate Khmer Krom without bleeding and unseen by International eyes by destroying the farmlands belonging to Khmer Krom people making it uninhabitable and causing large populations of Khmer Krom people to leave the country to Cambodia. For example, the shrimp farming project in Bac Lieu: In order to raise shrimp, they have to make canal to the sea to get salt water inland. Such actions cause to environment issues, firstly it causes land destruction and secondly causes land to be contaminated with salt water.
- In other areas Khleang and Prey Tapeng Provinces, Khmer Krom face a different sort of oppression: For example, when Khmer Krom people begin the rice growing season, the prices of seeds, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers become astronomically high. The harvested crops are often sold at very low prices, barely making enough for day to day living.
Khmer Krom in Cambodia:
- The Cambodian government has announced that when Khmer Krom come to Cambodia they are automatically recognized as a Cambodian citizen. Unfortunatelyit is not so in the legal system of Cambodia. . Most of Khmer Krom in Cambodia are undocumented. If anyone wanted to register, they must change their names and birth places. This is a racial eradication.
- The KKF are concerned for the safety the Khmer Krom people, in a country without any defined justice for those seeking refuge.
The KKF delegates appealed to the key congressmen and senators to help resolve the elevating conflicts and potential dangerous situation of the Khmer Krom people who are being targeted by Cambodia and Vietnam for standing up for the basic human rights.
23 July 2007 By Sam Borin Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Heng Soy The Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) held an urgent meeting in California past midnight, last night Cambodia time, to study response strategies on the disappearance of the former abbot of the Phnom Den pagoda in Takeo province, following his defrocking at the end of June, as well as strategies for non-violent resistance to obtain self-determination autonomy for the native people of the Kampuchea Krom lands. Thach Ngoc Thach, who led the KKF meeting in Long Beach, told RFA from the meeting location, that KKF demands that the Cambodian government shows Monk Tim Sakhorn within the next 2 weeks, regardless of whether he is still a monk or not. If not, KKF will call for non-violent demonstrations to be held all over the world. “We will pursue (our cause) on the International arena if the Cambodian government does not push the 2 monks (involved in the defrocking on Monk Tim Sakhorn: Tep Vong and Non Nget) to bring back Monk Tim Sakhorn. Even if he is already defrocked, wherever he is, they must bring him back because he does deserve jail sentence. We will gather force, and we will broadcast to Cambodian people all over the world to hold non-violent demonstrations everywhere in the world in order to demand that the Cambodian government strengthens up the honor of the country and the nation. I am confident that the Cambodian public around the world will support the KKF proposal, and the UN will heed our demands because it loves peace also,” Thach Ngoc Thach said. Thach Ngoc Thach, KKF President, said that UNPO representatives are also undertaking strong diplomatic actions in this issue. “UNPO already sent a letter to the UN office in Geneva, and they are also cooperating with the International Radical Party to push the European Union to pressure the Cambodian government on the succession of oppressions imposed on Khmer Krom people who crossed to border (to come to live in Cambodia). I am confident that they will continue their action, for example, one can see now the pressure imposed on Vietnam, forcing it (Vietnam) to resolve the human rights violations perpetrated against Khmer Krom people.”
Friday, July 20, 2007 By Moeung Tum Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata The Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and representatives of Khmer Kampuchea-Krom people living in Cambodia, as well as those living in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, New Zealand, and the USA, are paying a lot of attention on the safety of defrocked Monk Tim Sakhorn. Several Khmer Krom groups both inside and outside of the country have issued a news declaration, on Friday, demanding that the government of Cambodia clearly shows the location where the Cambodian authority deported Monk Tim Sakhorn to in Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam) on 2 and 3 July 2007, and they also ask that Monk Tim Sakhorn be brought back to Cambodia. The KKF asked the Cambodian government to protect the safety of Monk Tim Sakhorn in accordance with the human rights protection law because the action taken by the Cambodian authority to defrock Monk Tim Sakhorn was illegal. Monk Tim Sakhorn is a Cambodian citizen who was born in Kampuchea Krom (South Vietnam), he is 40-year-old and he lived in Cambodia since 1979. The KKF said that, in addition to Monk Tim Sakhorn, there are 5 other Khmer Krom monks who are currently being oppressed by the Vietnamese authority which jailed them in Khleang province (Soc Trang province) without proper, transparent and fair judgment. These 5 Khmer Krom monks are: Monks Danh Thol, Kim Muol, Ly Huong, Thach Thoeung, and Ly Suong.
Friday, July 20, 2007 By Kim Pov Sottan Radio Free Asia Translated from Khmer by Socheata Human rights organizations and Khmer Krom associations repeated one more time that they will send a complaint the International Court if the Cambodian government continue to ignore the disappearance of Monk Tim Sakhorn, the former abbot of the Phnom Den pagoda located in Takeo province. This new declaration was done during a press conference held on Friday 20 July which was participated by the Licadho and Adhoc human rights defense organizations, the Association of Khmer Krom Monks, the Association for the defense of the Khmer Krom rights, the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation in the world, and the observer of the UN human rights organization. Ny Chariya, an Adhoc official, declared that today’s press conference is a first step in the demand made to the government to show former Monk Tim Sakhorn, and the next step the group will take would be to push this issue forward in cooperation with international partners. Ny Chariya said: “We cannot throw away this case. Now, we have several means to push the government to show Monk Tim Sakhorn, whether he is dead or alive, the government must show him to us.” Monk Yoeung Sin, President of the Khmer Krom Monks Association, revealed that Monk Tim Sakhorn did commit any fault to earn a defrocking. He only provided a lot of humanitarian help to Khmer Krom people: “They are mad against him (Tim Sakhorn), because he protected them (Khmer Krom people fleeing persecution in Vietnam), allowed them to sleep in the pagoda, that’s why these people cannot be persecuted, and nobody cannot do anything to them. His actions led to rancor and some issued false reports on him (Tim Sakhorn) to remove him from his position. This is purely invented false stories.” Sam At, a Licadho official, qualified the defrocking as a serious violation of human rights based on the nationality law because Monk Tim Sakhorn is a Cambodian citizen who must be protected by the government, he should not be deported. Monk Tim Sakhorn, the abbot of the Phnom Den pagoda, was defrocked by the authority on 30 June and he was accused of various contradicting charges: some accused him of breaking the friendship between Cambodia and Vietnam, later on, the accusation was changed to his involvement with a woman, and then that he was involved with crimes etc… Since his defrocking, Monk Tim Sakhorn disappeared and the Ministry of interior claimed that Monk Tim Sakhorn wanted to go back to live in South Vietnam. Until now, General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, keeps on repeating the same thing, that the government is helping in the search, but there is no sign of Monk Tim Sakhorn yet. On the same day, over 40 faithful of the Phnom Den pagoda traveled to Phnom Penh city to hand over a petition to the National Assembly and the office of prime minister Hun Sen, demanding that Hun Sen resolves this issue.
Win Thida, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh 20 July 2007 About 30 villagers from Kirivong town in Takeo province put their marks to a petition Friday, asking government authorities to find a recently defrocked monk who has gone missing. Tim Sokhorn, a Khmer Kampuchea Krom monk who led a pagoda in Takeo, was last seen reportedly being forced into a vehicle after he was ordered defrocked for allegedly stirring unrest between Cambodia and Vietnam. Buddhist leaders said he was allowing Khmer Krom monks to stay at the pagoda and inciting them to protest and violence. The monk’s disappearance has led to a wave of unrest and fear among Khmer Krom monks and laymen, and the rights of the minority group overall are often politically charged and potentially destabilizing. The government has so far been unable to allay fears the monk was sent to Vietnam against his will. “We want to take the petition to the National Assembly to find a solution for Tim Sokhorn,” said one of his followers Friday. “There is no reason for him to disappear. If he made an offense in Cambodia, he should be tried in Cambodia. We want all high-ranking officials to help find him, dead or alive.” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tim Sokhorn went to Vietnam willingly. “He asked us permission to go. Now we don’t know where he is,” Khieu Sopheak said. “The departments involved also want us to find him, as he is a Cambodian citizen.”
Seng Ratana, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh 19 July 2007 Family members and followers of the disappeared Khmer Kampuchea Krom monk, Tim Sokhorn, have asked that aid agencies help find him. Tim Sokhorn has been missing for more than two weeks, and rights groups fear he was forcibly taken from his Takeo province pagoda and possibly expelled to Vietnam. About 50 people gathered in Takeo on Thursday to travel to Phnom Penh and appeal to aid groups for help finding the monk, who was defrocked for allegedly fomenting unrest between Vietnam and Cambodia. Tim Sokhorn’s father, Tim Theang, said he was worried over whether his son was alive or dead. “My son has been missing since [June 30]. I have not received any news about him,” he said. “Where did he go? Is he dead or alive? I would like to know,” said follower Neath Pov, an elderly woman. Venerable Chin Sinath, acting president of North Phnom Den temple, said Tip Sokhorn did not have affairs with women, as alleged by television and a government spokesman in the days following his disappearance. Takeo province Adhoc investigator Ouch Leng said he was suspicious of local government and security forces after they told villagers to stay out of the affairs of the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority group living along the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia. “Another reason is that the checkpoint police and the communal chief threatened the villagers not to get involved with the Khmer Kampuchea Krom movement,” he said. “The temple committee and the villagers are afraid because of the checkpoint police threats.” Source:VOA
Cheab Mony, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh 13/07/2007 An advocacy group for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people reported Friday the minority group sees a disproportionate amount of rights abuses compared to other Cambodians. A report undertaken by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association claims their group suffers more human rights abuses than other non-Khmer groups, such as the Vietnamese or Cham. The group monitored human rights abuses over a four-month period, from January through April this year, in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville municipalities and Kandal and Takeo provinces. The group said it documented 129 separate abuses, including three murders, in that period. Other violations included arrests, illegal detentions, land seizures, threats of arrest and assault. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak dismissed the report’s findings. “Actually, there were no abuses,” he said. “The important thing is the implementation of the law. We implement laws in every country. We act according to the law.” The report comes on the heels of the defrocking and alleged abduction of a defrocked Khmer Krom monk last week. Rights groups say the monk, whose whereabouts remain unknown, was forced into a car after being stripped of his monk status for allegedly fomenting political turmoil between Cambodia and Vietnam.
16/07/2007 Cheab Mony, VOA Khmer Original report from Phnom Penh Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks are continuing to flee Vietnam in what they say is an exodus from persecution there. The monks often find refuge in Cambodia’s pagodas, but a Khmer Krom monk who housed such refugees was defrocked earlier this month on grounds he was fomenting unrest between the two Southeast Asian neighbors. The monk, Tim Sakhorn, is missing; rights groups worry he was forcibly expelled to Vietnam, which the government denies. Venerable Yoeung Sin of Samaki Reangsei temple in Phnom Penh told VOA Khmer that many monks were now leaving the Khmer Krom regions of Vietnam. “As far as I know, more than 10 monks have left, but now there are only 2 who came here [to my pagoda] because of threats,” he said. Other monks were likely afraid to stay at his pagoda, because they would be easy for authorities to round up and send back, he said. Venerable Ly Da, a Khmer Krom monk, said he came to Cambodia fleeing intimidation by Vietnamese authorities. “They threatened to arrest many monks,” he said. “They threatened to arrest 21 monks who were being defrocked and put them in prison.” Vietnam Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Kim said the monks had a right to talk, but each of them probably had individual reasons for leaving Vietnam. “In Vietnam there are no crackdown activities or mistreatments of the Khmer monks,” he said.
Below is a petition letter by the Khmer Buddhist Temple of Montreal in regards to the recent disrobement of Venerable Tim SaKhorn.
Original report by RFA Translated by KKFYC 9 July 2007 Monks and Members of Orng Hsu pagoda in Montreal Canada have made an appeal to Cambodia and the Vietnam government to respect and stop oppressing the religious freedom of Khmer Krom monks. The proclamation was made after receiving recent news and evident about the oppression from Vietnamese government and authorities toward Khmer Krom monks on practicing religious freedom. Those including prohibiting monks from went taking offered food from Khmer Krom followers, suppress the practice of free speech, defrock Khmer Krom monks as well as imprison them. Mr. Seng Blong, President of the Orng Hsu pagoda Committee told RFA about the goal of his committee: Mr. Seng Blong: We want to support the appeal of Venerable Sakhorn for using a peaceful method of demonstration [and believe that] is the right way to demonstrate and we will win at the end. We want to ask religious leaders and Khmer religious leader sto stop suppressing peaceful demonstrations of Khmer Krom [demanding] for their right. Mao Sotheany: As you are living in Montreal, what else do you know regarding monks who that reside in Cambodia as well as in Vietnam? Mr. Seng Blong: We know about the suppression toward our Khmer Krom monks merely for going to received food offering from Buddhist followers that have deep root in our culture in Kampuchea Krom. As a result for stand up for their rights, many monks have been defrocked and some have been imprison till this day. Mao Sotheany: Beside from making the appeal, do you have any other step to helpKhmer Krom monks in Kampuchea Krom? Mr. Seng Blong: The step is just pledge to all who love peace, peacefully fight to freed people in the motherland; to have the country govern in the right way, and justice for everyone; and to ask for all compatriot who are peacefully fighting for freedom have the courage and bravery to stand up for the life and happiness of our people back home. Read RFA coverage in Khmer