UNPO Condemns Arrests of Khmer Krom Monks

UNPO, Feb 21, 2007

The Hague, Netherlands -- Reports of the ongoing harassment and arrest of Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks in Vietnam remains a cause of concern to UNPO. Recent attempts by Monks to mark their right to religious freedom through peaceful demonstrations have reportedly resulted in a new wave or arrests, with others forced into hiding or placed under house arrest in their temples.

On 08 February 2007, the Vietnamese police surrounded and blocked all passage to the Ta Sek Temple in Soc Trang (Kleang) Province in an effort to prevent the resident Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks from staging a peaceful protest marking their right of religious freedom. Initial reports indicated that 60 Khmer Krom monks were stranded inside the temple, with no access to food or water.

Further reports suggest that on 20 February 2007, Vietnamese police forced their way into the temple in order to arrest two Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks who remained inside the Temple. The two monks were the Venerable Kim Nguon and the Venerable Son Thy Thon. Reports also indicate that Head Monk, the Venerable Thach Toan was threatened with imprisonment if he attempted to intervene. At present, police continue to surround the temple where the two Monks remain, denying all others access to the Temple.

UNPO is greatly concerned about the wellbeing of both the remaining Monks, as their effective condition of house arrest denies them access to both food and water. UNPO is also particularly disturbed by the continued persecution of Khmer Krom Buddhist Monks, as they play a crucial role in preserving both Khmer Krom culture and language.

UNPO has urged a number of Embassies and Diplomatic Missions to Vietnam to;

Call upon Vietnamese authorities to end their arbitrary and unlawful persecution of the Khmer Krom community, including that of Buddhist Monks;

Raise the issue of human rights, in particular in relation to minorities such as the Khmer Krom, in Your relations with Vietnamese authorities;

Remind the Government of Vietnam of its obligations under internationally recognized human rights standards to provide for freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion, as well as their duty to protect those promoting the cause of human rights.