Khmer Krom Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn has been released from prison in Vietnam after serving a one-year jail sentence for undermining the “solidarity” between Vietnam and Cambodia, the Vietnamese Embassy confirmed Wednesday.
However, Tim Sakhorn, who was last year stripped of his position as the chief monk of a Takeo province pagoda and then deported to Vietnam, where he was arrested, is not yet free to return to Cambodia. Instead, he is taking a tour of Vietnam and China funded by the Vietnamese government, according to his father, Tim Teang.
“They are taking him on a tour to see developments there,” Tim Teang said by telephone from Takeo province.
Tim Teang said he was happy with his son’s June 28 prison release but was suspicious of the terms under which it took place.
“I want my son to return to Cambodia, as he does not have any relatives in Vietnam,” he said, adding that authorities in Vietnam had also given his son an undisclosed sum of money and had renovated a house for him there.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said the monk’s release was normal as he had completed his sentence. He denied that the release had anything to do with the recent visit by King Norodom Sihamoni to Vietnam.
“Tim Sakhorn’s case is just a small individual case,” Trinh Ba Cam said. “It does not affect the two countries’ relationship.”
Tim Sakhorn is free to leave for Cambodia or stay in Vietnam now that his detention is finished, he added.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who made representations to the Vietnamese government on behalf of the jailed monk, said Tim Sakhorn’s release was expected as he had served his one-year sentence, including his pre-trial detention.
“The [Vietnamese] broke their promise to me last year that he would be released before the end of his sentence,” he said.
“Until he is home, he is not as free as we want him to be,” he said. “While he is in Vietnam, he is still very much under pressure.”
Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization Executive Director Ang Chanrith said he was also concerned that Tim Sakhorn had not been allowed to return home immediately, and none of his relatives was allowed to meet with him on his release.
“Tim Sakhorn is a Cambodian citizen, and he should be allowed to return to Cambodia,” he said. (Additional reporting by Fergal Quinn)