August 19, 2007

UNPO Appeals for Human Rights Defenders

Recent developments in the Mekong Delta, in particular the arrest of the Ven. Tim Sa Khorn, has prompted UNPO to renew its appeal for greater protection for the defenders of Khmer Krom rights.

The Hague, 20 August 2007 – UNPO remains concerned about the ongoing persecution of Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks in Vietnam. Following the recent arrest of the prominent Buddhist Abbot the Ven. Tim Sa Khorn, UNPO issued the following appeal calling for his immediate release, as well as for greater protection for the human rights defenders of the Mekong Delta.

On 8 February 2007, following a peaceful demonstration which gathered 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks in a call for greater religious freedom, Vietnamese authorities arrested, intimidated, defrocked and imprisoned nineteen Khmer-Krom Buddhist Monks. A number remain imprisoned for their role in organising these demonstrations.

On 30 June 2007, the Ven. Tim Sa Khorn, Abbot of the North Phnom-Denh Temple in Cambodia was summoned to meet the Head Monk of the Takeo province. Cambodian authorities accused him of using the Temple as a place “to propagate activities that divide the relationship between Cambodia and Vietnam”. An order was subsequently given to defrock the Ven Tim. Sa Khorn.

On 3 July 2007, General Khieu Sopheak, Spokespersons for the Cambodian Ministry of the Interior, announced that Tim Sa Khorn, who had been living in Cambodia since 1979, had been returned to Vietnam. Reports from early August 2007 suggest the Ven. Tim Sa Khorn was subsequently arrested by Vietnamese authorities on charges of “of undermining national unity.”

UNPO is greatly disturbed by these recent developments which follow a number of similar acts of persecution aimed at Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks. UNPO condemns also in particular the persecution of individuals associated with the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF), a UNPO Member organisation noted for its non-violent principles.

UNPO has consequently appealed to the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Cambodia to France to:

- Urge respect for the Kingdom of Cambodia’s internationally recognised obligations to protect human rights defenders and those seeking safety within its borders;

- Call upon Vietnamese authorities to end their arbitrary and unlawful persecution of the Khmer Krom, in particular of Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks, who play a vital role in preserving and safeguarding  the Khmer Krom culture, language, and religion; and

- Urge the Government of Vietnam to ensure the Ven. Tim Sa Khorn is granted his full range of human, civil, and political rights, and receives a free and fair trial compliant with internationally recognised standards of justice.