The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok has granted five Khmer Krom monks applying for refugee status temporary permission to stay in Thailand, according to Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Krom Human Rights Association.
The Buddhist monks, who were jailed in Vietnam in February 2007 and later released, traveled to Bangkok and met with UNHCR officials on May 19 to begin the application process, Mr Chanrith said by telephone Monday.
The men—Danh Ton, Ly Suong, Thach Thuong, Ly Faing and Kim Muon—are all Vietnamese citizens but ethnic Khmers. Speaking by telephone from Bangkok, Mr Ton confirmed that he and the four other men had all received permission to stay in Thailand for one month until their applications for refugee status are approved.
“I am waiting for the UNHCR decision to provide asylum to another country,” Mr Ton said Monday.
UNHCR spokeswoman in Bangkok Kitty McKinsey declined to comment on the five monks’ application for refugee status.
The five join another ethnic Khmer Buddhist monk, Tim Sakhorn, who fled from Cambodia to Thailand to apply for refugee status in early April to avoid deportation to Vietnam.
Mr Chanrith also said that a Khmer Krom woman, Thach Thithay, 58, has fled from Vietnam to Cambodia because she and her friends were being persecuted for being Catholic. “She hid in a place in Cambodia after she fled to Cambodia looking for help,” he said, adding that the local rights group Adhoc is helping with the case.
Ms Thithay said by telephone from an undisclosed location that she fled after a demonstration calling for Vietnamese authorities to respect the Catholic religion turned violent. “One man was killed and three women arrested when they protested,” she alleged. Trinh Ba Cam, spokesman for the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, said he didn’t know of Ms Thithay and denied her claims of repression.
(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)