Mother of Khmer Krom Monk Says Denied Access to Jailed Son

The mother of a young ex-monk who was arrested and defrocked last week for bringing a bag of flags to protesters at a Phnom Penh pagoda claims she was prevented from visiting her son at Prey Sar prison Tuesday after traveling there from Vietnam.

Khit Vannak, 26, and fellow former monk Sang Kosal, 19, were arrested on November 12 while attempting to bring two bags of Cambodian and Buddhist flags to villagers from Preah Vihear province ahead of a planned march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to bring attention to their land dispute.

The following day, the pair was defrocked, charged with “participating in a criminal association,” and placed in pretrial detention at the maximum-security prison on the city’s outskirts.

On Tuesday, Mr. Vannak’s mother, Thach Ya, 47, who is a member of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority in Vietnam, traveled from her home in southern Vietnam to visit her incarcerated son, but was denied entry to the prison because her identification documents were written in Vietnamese, she said Thursday.

“When I presented the documents, the prison officials told me that they couldn’t read them because they were written in Vietnamese and that they couldn’t allow me to meet my son,” she said.

“He’s just a Buddhist monk and he’s never been involved in any illegal groups, so I appeal to the court to release him,” she said.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, confirmed that Ms. Ya was prevented from seeing her son.

“Although they are inmates, they have the right to meet visiting family members,” he said. “In this case, it’s a violation of an inmate’s rights.”

Pin Chanthy, a prison official who works at Prey Sar’s Correctional Center I, on Thursday said the penitentiary did not discriminate against visiting family members of other nationalities.

“I have no information about this woman, but the general practice is that anyone of any nationality just presents us with their identification card and reports the name of the jailed relative they want to meet,” he said. “Then we record it into the log and let them meet.”

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