Former Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn fled to Bangkok Sunday in order to avoid deportation back to Vietnam, according to those assisting the defrocked Buddhist monk.
Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community organization, said the 41-year-old former monk left Phnom Penh late Sunday evening because he no longer felt safe residing in Cambodia. After meeting with local authorities in his previous home of Takeo province and learning they would not help him affirm that he holds Cambodia citizenship, Mr Tim Sakhorn reportedly decided to leave.
“Tim Sakhorn fled to Thailand for a safe place on Sunday under control of the [UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees],” he said Monday by telephone. “Because of his security and he is afraid of the Cambodian authorities, Tim Sakhorn thought that they could arrest him and then send him back again to Vietnam where he did not want to go.”
Although born in Vietnam, Mr Tim Sakhorn is of Khmer ethnicity and lived as a citizen in Cambodia from 1979 to 2007.
Representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia could not be reached by telephone or e-mail Monday. The UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok was closed Monday due to the violent clashes between protesters and police in the Thai capital.
National police spokesman Kieth Chantharith was not available for comment Monday.
In June 2007, top Buddhist clergy defrocked Mr Tim Sakhorn and accused him of undermining ties between Cambodia and Vietnam by trying to establish a religious movement based out of his Takeo province Kiri Vong district pagoda. After a brief disappearance, he later resurfaced in a Vietnam prison where he served one year.
His younger brother, Thang Ban, said the family was unaware of his departure to Thailand.
He said his brother told his father he was traveling to Phnom Penh for several days to visit relatives and friends. Mr Thang Ban said his brother had not called home since he left April 6.
(Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)