A court in Vietnam’s An Giang province November 8 sentenced Khmer Krom Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn to one year in prison for undermining the “solidarity” between Vietnam and Cambodia, according to media reports and officials.
Members of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom community in Phnom Penh claimed that Tim Sakhorn was also ordered to serve 14 years probation, though that report could not be independently verified November 9.
“I am really, really sorry over this conviction,” said Yoeun Sin, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monks Association.
“If he was even convicted for one minute or one second, it would not be acceptable,” Yoeun Sin said.
“Cambodians must be prosecuted and judged under Cambodian law. Our citizens should not be deported to be prosecuted by another country,” he added.
Tim Sakhorn’s verdict was reported in Vietnam’s Can Tho newspaper, Yoeun Sin said, adding that the monk’s year in prison would be counted from the day of his arrest in June.
The chief monk of a pagoda in Takeo province, Tim Sakhorn, 40, mysteriously disappeared from Wat Phnom Den in June and was missing for several weeks until reports surfaced that he had been forcibly deported to Vietnam and was being detained by Vietnamese authorities.
Shortly before his disappearance, Tim Sakhorn was defrocked by Cambodia’s Supreme Buddhist Patriarch Tep Vong for alleged political activities that undermined relations between Phnom Penh and Hanoi.
Though an ethnic Khmer born in Vietnam, Tim Sakhorn had lived in Cambodia since the age of 11. Nevertheless, Vietnamese authorities said that Tim Sakhorn was a Vietnamese citizen and liable for prosecution under their laws.
Thach Ngoc Wath, secretary general of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, said the Can Tho newspaper on Thursday reported that Tim Sakhorn had confessed to inciting ethnic Khmers living in southern Vietnam and to receiving funding for his political work from overseas groups who were acting against the Vietnamese government.
The article also stated that Tim Sakhorn was deported to Vietnam by the Cambodian government and was handed over at the checkpoint adjoining Takeo province.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said November 9 that he had not received official confirmation of the verdict handed down to Tim Sakhorn, but he had heard unofficial reports of the conviction from several sources.
“I have been waiting for confirmation from Vietnam,” he said.
Cambodian Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak could not be contacted for comment on Friday.
However, National Assembly lawmaker Nguon Nhel said the case was unfortunate but he cautioned that people should be responsible for their actions.
“[I]n some cases, some Cambodian people have committed crimes that affect the territory of another country,” Nguon Nhel said.
Nevertheless, Nguon Nhel added: “We will still take care of them by asking that country to reduce their punishment.”
“I am hopeful, that country will provide proper treatment for the convict while detained in prison.”