SRP President Sam Rainsy accused the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam of violating the rights of Khmer Kampuchea Krom people and praised the Khmer Krom community for its continued perseverance in the face of abuses.
“I would like to strongly condemn human rights abuses against Khmer Krom monks by all Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities at all levels,” he wrote in the statement released Friday.
Sam Rainsy said by telephone on Sunday that the current level of discrimination against Khmer Krom in Vietnam and Cambodia is unprecedented.
“This is the worst tension ever against Khmer Kampuchea Krom. Monks were detained, monks were defrocked,” he said, referring to recent reports that Khmer Krom monks were detained in the south of Vietnam following protests.
He also accused Cambodian authorities of ignoring the recent defrocking and disappearance of Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn, who was accused of starting a subversive religious movement out of his Phnom Den commune pagoda in Takeo province’s Kiri Vong district.
Trinh Ba Cam, spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy, said the accusations were groundless and that Sam Rainsy does not know what life is really like in Vietnam.
“The government does not discriminate against Khmer people who are living in Vietnam,” he said.
Vietnam’s ethnic Khmer population is treated with the same respect afforded to other ethnic minorities, Trinh Ba Cam said.
“The truth is the truth,” he added.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Sam Rainsy was simply trying to garner more votes.
“The way that he is working to get votes by making neighboring countries an enemy is not good,” he added.
Khieu Kanharith also said that the missing monk, Tim Sakhorn, was defrocked as a result of violating the Buddhist discipline and not as a result of government pressure.
“We are protecting Khmer Krom according to the law,” he added.
Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community NGO, said that on Sunday around 200 people donated 500 kg of rice and other materials to the 18 Khmer Krom monks currently residing at Tim Sakhorn’s former Phnom Den pagoda.
“We want to encourage the monks and laymen not to feel intimidated,” he said.
Phy Sophoan, the acting Phnom Den chief monk, said local authorities have harassed the monks at his pagoda and told them not to behave like Tim Sakhorn.
Yol Sarath, Phnom Den commune police chief, denied the chief monk’s claim.
“Nobody is against Buddhism except Pol Pot,” he added.