Tim Sakhorn, the recently re-ordained Khmer Krom monk who fled Vietnam and currently resides in Thailand, said he will wait until June to see if he will be given refugee status in the US.
Speaking Thursday by telephone from Bangkok, the Khmer Krom activist said officials with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees interviewed him Monday and gave him a letter according him the right to remain temporarily in Thailand.
“I could stay here waiting for the UNHCR to give me the complete right as an asylum-seeker,” he said, talking about the letter.
Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Association, said he heard the news via e-mail, but added that Mr Tim Sakhorn would have to wait until June 20 to learn of his fate as a potential refugee.
Citing UN policy, spokeswomen for the UNHCR office in Bangkok Kitty McKinsey said she could not comment on any specific cases or confirm or deny if someone was a refugee or asylum-seeker. Speaking generally, she said asylum-seekers are registered and given a certificate that affords them some protection while they wait for resettlement.
“Normally after a person has been interviewed by UNHCR, he or she is given an asylum-seeker certificate,” she wrote in an e-mail. “If we recognize someone as a refugee, we give that person a refugee certificate.”
In total, she said, granting of refugee status can take anywhere between two to three months.
Cynthia Brown, deputy press attache for the US Embassy in Bangkok, also said the office could not comment on the case. She said individuals must first meet internationally agreed upon criteria to obtain refugee status from the UNHCR before being referred to a third country for consideration of resettlement.
In addition to Mr Tim Sakhorn, Mr Ang Chanrith said five defrocked Khmer Krom monks are still hiding out in Phnom Penh after fleeing Vietnam where they were previously jailed. He said they too are seeking assistance from the UN but are keeping a low profile in the meantime.