A new report claimed that Khmer Krom living in Cambodia suffered from discrimination and violent suppression in 2007.
According to the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization’s 2007 annual review released last week, 35 percent of the 1.5 million Khmer Krom living in Cambodia have been refused national identity cards, without which they cannot vote or send their children to school.
The report also highlighted incidents in February and April last year, when police blocked protests by Khmer Krom monks in Phnom Penh calling for the release of monks imprisoned in Vietnam, and one in December, where a protest by monks was violently dispersed in front of the Vietnam Embassy.
Though Khmer by ethnicity, Khmer Krom hail from southern Vietnam.
The report also drew attention to the deportation to Vietnam of Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn and the mysterious death of Khmer Krom monk Eang Sok Thoeun, found with his throat cut in his pagoda last March, hours after attending a protest. The Interior Ministry had still not responded to a request for a full investigation into the death, the report claimed.
“Not recognizing Khmer Krom citizenship in Cambodia, the arrest, extradition and imprisonment of Tim Sakhorn and the crackdowns by police are a way of exerting political pressure and intimidation,” the KKKHRO report stated.
KKKHRO Executive Director Ang Chanrith said by phone Monday that Khmer Krom people living in Cambodia faced more violence in 2007 than in previous years.
“All the protests by Khmer Krom here were cracked down upon and threatened,” he said. “Our rights have been restricted.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak denied a policy existed to refuse Khmer Krom people ID cards.
“There has never been any discrimination,” he said.
“They are our blood,” he added.
Referring to the protest in December in which monks were beaten, Khieu Sopheak reiterated the government’s claim that several monks had struck police first.