A delegation of eight prominent Khmer Krom leaders have requested a meeting with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte next week to discuss what they allege are abuses of Khmer Krom rights in Cambodia and Vietnam.
In a letter to the US Embassy dated Sept 10, Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community Executive Director Thach Setha wrote that he wanted to lead a delegation of representatives from the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association and the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist monks associations to meet Negroponte.
“We want him to intervene…to demand greater rights in Cambodia,” Thach Setha said by telephone Thursday.
The delegation, Thach Seth wrote, will present Negroponte with a report outlining numerous rights abuses of the Khmer Krom minority in Vietnam and Cambodia. A case in point will be Tim Sakhorn, the Khmer Krom Buddhist monk who is being held under house arrest in Vietnam since his release from prison earlier this year. Tim Sakhorn was deported from Cambodia to Vietnam for undermining relations with Hanoi, and was later jailed.
“We will present him with our report and urge the US to pressure the Vietnamese government to respect our freedom of religious expression and to stop confiscating our land,” Thach Setha said.
US Embassy spokesman John Johnson said Thursday that the embassy had received the delegation’s letter, but had not yet decided on the full schedule of Negroponte’s visit, which runs from Sunday through Tuesday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said he was not surprised that the Khmer Krom associations requested to meet with Negroponte.
“It is not surprising but [what they are claiming] is not true,” he said.
“We do not discriminate against the Khmer Krom,” he said, adding that complaints by some Khmer Krom associations were due to their affiliations to opposition parties.
“There are two factions within [the Khmer Krom associations], those who are affiliated to the opposition and those who are affiliated to the CPP,” he said.
Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam could not be reached for comment Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Fergal Quinn)