The Interior Ministry has granted permission to several Khmer Krom organizations to protest today against Vietnam over the alleged defrocking of now 13 monks in southern Vietnam, an official said Thursday.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng has given the groups permission to gather for one hour today from 2 to 3 pm at Samaki Raingsei pagoda in Meanchey district’s Stung Meanchey commune, ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said.
“The Cambodian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression,” Khieu Sopheak said, reading out a statement by Sar Kheng. Sar Kheng has stipulated that the gathering must proceed peacefully, Khieu Sopheak added.
Several Khmer Krom associations claim the monks have been defrocked following anti-government protests in southern Vietnam.
Deputy Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong said he would have likely declined the groups’ request due to what he said was a failure by the 50 monks who protested near the Vietnamese Embassy Tuesday to control themselves. In a rare public protest tolerated by police, the monks demonstrated a short distance from the embassy Tuesday for four hours.
Youen Sin, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association, said today’s protesters will draw up a petition to submit to the UN asking for intervention in southern Vietnam.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said the accusations against the Vietnamese government are groundless. “The government never defrocks monks,” he said. “It is finished.”
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said he thinks government officials are likely allowing today’s protest because they do not find it threatening, noting that Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet, who arrived in Cambodia Tuesday, will have already left when the protest starts.
“The Vietnamese delegation will have left the country, so it’s too late to get the message across,” he said. He added that Stung Meanchey is an out-of-the-way location where a protest will draw little attention.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish)