US Gives Cambodia a Glowing Report on Religious Freedom

Apart from a “few reports” of religious discrimination, Cambodia’s government received a positive assessment in a US State Department report issued Wednesday on religious tolerance.

As in past years, the International Religious Freedom Report concluded that the government “generally respected” religious freedom for a population 93 percent composed of Theravada Buddhists, with minorities of 3.5 to 5 percent for Muslims and 2 percent for Christians.

In standard language adopted in the previous version, the report said “minority religious groups experienced little or no societal discrimination” despite some reports of minor, localized conflict from Muslims and Christians.

Nevertheless Cham Muslims surveyed saw some barriers to full integration in society while some Buddhists expressed concern that the Muslim community received money from foreign countries, it said.

Dok Narin, secretary of state at the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said the Constitution guaranteed religious freedom but that some discrimination persisted. “We have many kinds of religion in Cambodia and people have freedom to respect any religion. However, there are a few people who may criticize other religions,” Mr Narin said.

Sos Kimri, Mufti of Cambodia, said the Muslim community could freely wear religious dress and observe festivals while enjoying equal work opportunities. “We can open a mosque or school anywhere we want and pray,” he said, noting that support came from Malaysia and Arab countries.

However, the US State Department report on Vietnam said that more than a million ethnic Khmer Theravada Buddhists living in the Mekong Delta faced government restrictions on religious practice.

“Protestant Khmers also reported harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, property damage and beatings by Khmer Krom Buddhists in certain districts of Tra Vinh Province,” the report said, noting that authorities allegedly did little to prevent the incidents and may have participated.


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