Four Khmer Krom monks, who had been held in a Vietnamese prison for almost two years, were released Sunday and Monday, according to Khmer Krom Monk Association President Yoeung Sin.
Kim Muon, Danh Ton and Thach Thuong were released from An Giang provincial prison Sunday, while Ly Fang was released Monday, he said, adding that the monks are still being monitored by officials in Vietnam.
The four monks, along with another ethnic Khmer monk, Ly Suong, who was released Nov 23, were arrested on Feb 23, 2007 for allegedly organizing anti-government demonstrations in southern Vietnam, he said.
“They were released from prison but they are still monitored by the Vietnamese authorities,” Yoeung Sin said, adding that he believes the monks were released due to pressure applied by the European Union and other countries.
Yoeung Sin urged the Vietnamese authorities to give the monks complete freedom.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam confirmed that the five monks had been released along with many other prisoners, as is traditional ahead of the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, which starts on Jan 26.
“The Vietnam government usually releases the prisoners during the Vietnamese New Year before the limit time [of] the prisoners…[if they] promise they will not to do something wrong again,” he said.
Trinh Ba Cam said he had not received any information about the current situation of the five monks, but he said Vietnamese authorities would not threaten them or violate their rights.
In an e-mail Wednesday, Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said the releases were not enough.
“If it’s true that four Khmer Krom monks were released from prison, that’s a good step. However it doesn’t address the fundamental problem of the Vietnamese government continuing to jail people for peaceful expression of their religious or political views,” he wrote.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)