Local rights group Adhoc and a Khmer Krom organization have received unconfirmed reports that a Khmer Krom monk who vanished late last month may be currently detained at a military base in Vietnam, officials said Thursday.
Sources in Vietnam have told Adhoc and the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization that they saw Tim Sakhorn at a military base in An Giang province following his June 30 defrocking in Cambodia’s neighboring Takeo province, Adhoc and KKKHRO officials said.
Ang Chanrith, executive director of the KKKHRO, said Khmer Krom sources working at a military camp in Vietnam’s Military Region Nine have reported seeing Tim Sakhorn in detention. “I can assume that Tim Sakhorn is in prison,” he said.
Adhoc chief monitor Chan Soveth said his organization had also received information regarding Tim Sakhorn from Ang Chanrith’s sources. Vietnamese Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam could not be reached for comment.
Tim Sakhorn’s whereabouts have been a mystery since June 30 when he was defrocked on the orders of Cambodia’s Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong.
Tep Vong ordered Tim Sakhorn defrocked in a June 16 statement, accusing him of undermining friendly relations with Hanoi by trying to establish a religious movement based out of his pagoda in Takeo province’s Kiri Vong district.
Human rights workers say that after his defrocking on June 30, Tim Sakhorn was forced into a car by several men dressed in bodyguard uniforms and driven away. Tep Vong could not be contacted Thursday.
Cambodia’s Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he did not know where Tim Sakhorn is. “[Tim Sakhorn] didn’t commit any crime or kill people so he cannot be deported,” Khieu Kanharith said.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, a coalition of 22 NGOs, said in a Thursday statement that it was gravely concerned by Tim Sakhorn’s case. “The arrest of this monk is scaring other Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks,” CHRAC said. “The Kingdom of Cambodia has its territorial integrity, the Royal Government, therefore, should not send any Cambodian…to another country without respecting its national law first,” CHRAC added.
Government officials have previously claimed that Tim Sakhorn may have been defrocked for having an affair with a woman and, following his disappearance, state-run TVK ran a surprisingly lengthy news story on the monk’s alleged female lover.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay wrote to Interior Minister Sar Kheng seeking information on Tim Sakhorn’s fate on Wednesday.
“The defrocking is contrary to Buddhist discipline and the deportation of Tim Sakhorn abused the Constitution,” Son Chhay wrote to Sar Kheng. “Please excellency, provide immediate information about his situation and the location of Tim Sakhorn, whether he is still alive or being tortured,” Son Chhay added.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak reiterated Thursday that Tim Sakhorn willingly went to Vietnam, and said he did not know where he is. “We didn’t deport him,” Khieu Sopheak maintained.
Cambodia cannot intervene with the Vietnamese authorities to ensure Tim Sakhorn’s return, Khieu Sopheak added. “They are two separate authorities,” he said.