Head of Khmer Krom Group Summoned to Court

The head of a Khmer Krom association was summoned for questioning at Takeo Provincial Court, accused of forging documents falsely claiming that nearly 50 Khmer Krom migrant workers from southern Vietnam were in fact asylum seekers fleeing persecution. 

Court Prosecutor Cheay Sophal said he summoned San Savang, director of Friends of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, to attend court March 7 following complaints from villagers and local officials in Kiri Vong district’s Preah Bat Chonchum commune.

Some 48 members of the Khmer Krom minority fled across the border from southern Vietnam last month fearing persecution after the Khmer Krom staged anti-Hanoi protests, according to San Savang and several other Khmer Krom associations.

But villagers and local officials now say that the Khmer Krom whom San Savang vouched for as asylum seekers were in fact farmers looking for work, Cheay Sophal said.

Cheay Sophal said San Savang failed to appear at court March 7, but that he would summon him again. “I don’t have enough evidence to arrest him yet,” he said.

San Savang said in an interview that he is now seeking protection from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Center for Human Rights as he fears for his safety after helping the Khmer Krom who had fled Vietnam.

“I want to seek security and protection,” he said.

UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Sturkenboom confirmed that UNHCR met with San Savan on Wednesday, but declined to reveal what they discussed.

“We listened to what he wanted to share with us and referred him to the UN center for human rights,” she said.

Julie de Rivero, an officer at the UN center for human rights, said she could not comment on the center’s meeting with San Savang.

Several Khmer Krom interviewed in Kiri Vong district last month said that they had fled following the protests in Vietnam.

They also said they had come to Cambodia to farm because their land had been confiscated.



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