Hiding out in Bangkok, recently re-ordained Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn aims to seek asylum during a meeting with the UN today, human rights officials said.
Executive director for Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization Ang Chanrith said the monk is to seek asylum with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
“I do not know which country he wants to go to, and it is up to the UNHCR in Bangkok to decide,” he said Thursday by telephone. UNHCR officials could not be reached.
Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Mr Tim Sakhorn has the right to leave the country and compared the current situation to when Mr Tim Sakhorn departed to Vietnam in 2007. Rights workers and Mr Tim Sakhorn himself claimed he had been abducted. The government said Tim Sakhorn departed voluntarily.
“Now he wants to leave Cambodia,” he added.
A Vietnamese court in November 2007 sentenced Tim Sakhorn to a year in prison for allegedly “undermining national unity.” He was released in June but continued to suffer restrictions on his movement before finally returning to Cambodia.
On Sunday, before fleeing to Thailand, he was re-ordained in Battambang province, according to Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community Organization.
Mr Khieu Sopheak said Mr Tim Sakhorn will always be welcome to return to the country.
“Cambodia is always open for its countrymen,” he said.
Thang Ban, the brother of Mr Tim Sakhorn, said after several days of no communication the family received word late Wednesday from Mr Ang Chanrith that Mr Tim Sakhorn was safe in Thailand.
“My father and the whole family have just received his phone call from Thailand, and he told us not to worry about him and said he is fine and he is now staying in Thailand,” his younger brother said Thursday. “We want him to go where he thinks he has security after Cambodia rejected his living here.”
(Additional reporting by Frank Radosevich)