A Khmer Krom association has warned the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh that it will hold a “massive demonstration” against Hanoi if it defrocks three Khmer Krom Buddhist monks.
According to a statement issued by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association to the embassy Monday and obtained Thursday, the demonstrations will take place “in Cambodia and other countries” if the Vietnamese authorities followed through on defrocking three monks in Vietnam’s Soc Trang province.
Association president Youen Sin alleged by telephone that the three monks—Kim Moeun, Tach Doeur and Thach Svinhear—were defrocked at 2 pm in Soc Trang province Thursday, though he said the date for the protest has not yet been set.
The statement claimed the monks have been targeted by Vietnamese authorities as ringleaders in alleged anti-Hanoi demonstrations in Vietnam.
The association will today ask permission to protest from Phnom Penh municipality, Youen Sin said.
“If we get permission, we will hold the demonstration right away,” he added.
Vietnamese Embassy counselor Nguyen Son Thuy said he didn’t know about the statement or the monks being defrocked, but said human rights in Vietnam are protected. “I can assure you that there is no oppression in Vietnam,” he said. “Khmer Kampuchea Krom are treated well.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said any request to demonstrate needs to go through the municipality.
Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said the Khmer Krom must also ask the Interior Ministry for permission to protest.
San Savang, director of the Friends of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, said his organization and four others met with a UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative Thursday morning about the dozens of Khmer Krom who have crossed the border in recent weeks. “We want the UNHCR to intervene with the government and help us provide the Khmer Kampuchea Krom with food and shelter,” he said.
UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Sturkenboom said the agency listened to the groups and asked them to submit their requests in writing.
“We offered to convey their message to the government,” she said, but added that it is beyond UNHCR’s mandate to do much more given the government’s policy that Khmer Krom are Cambodian citizens.
(Additional reporting by Emily Lodish.)