The U.N.’s human rights envoy to Cambodia, Surya Subedi, who began his 10th fact-finding mission to Cambodia on Sunday, has been asked to investigate issues faced by ethnic Khmer Krom people after five monks were arrested for participating in garment worker protests earlier this month.
In a letter to Mr. Subedi dated Friday, the Minority Rights Organization (MIRO) said it was “appalled” by the violent suppression of the protests in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district, during which police shot dead five people, and called on the special rapporteur to “investigate the critical situation of Khmer Krom monks” during his visit.
“As a human rights organization focusing on the rights of minorities, MIRO is particularly concerned about the fact that the security forces obviously targeted minority groups during the demonstrations,” says the letter, which was signed by MIRO director Ang Chanrith.
Mr. Chanrith said the five monks had been “singled out” for being Khmer Krom, or lower Khmer—a term used to refer to ethnic Khmer people from the southern part of Vietnam.
MIRO said that on January 2, five Khmer Krom monks from Stung Meanchey commune’s Wat Samaki Rangsei pagoda were arrested after they joined a garment worker protest and were “indiscriminately beaten on the head, back and in the belly with batons.”
Military police also allegedly forced them to be photographed holding drugs and condoms after the monks refused to defrock, then made them thumbprint declarations saying that they would not join any more protests, the letter says.
“The five monks have clearly been identified by the military forces as Khmer Krom and were selected for detention; none of the other monks present at the demonstration were taken into custody,” Mr. Chanrith said in his letter.
Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said he was unaware of the case, but added that “the force does not have the right to defrock them if they are real monks.”