Khmer Krom Groups Get Permission To Protest

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)

 

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