Khmer Krom: Peaceful Protest Silenced

UNPO, Dec 18, 2007

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- Representatives of the Khmer Krom civil society voice their concerns over the police assault on a peaceful demonstration of Khmer Krom monks in Phnom Penh asking for the release of Tim Sakhorn and respect of minority rights.

Below is press statement published by CCHR-CHRAC Secretariat , LICADHO and CLEC:

We, representatives of civil society, strongly condemn the excessive use of violence by the authorities against a group of Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks who gathered peacefully in front of the Vietnamese Embassy on the morning of 17 December 2007.

A group of 48 Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks, ethnic Khmer originally from southern Vietnam, had convened peacefully in front of the Vietnamese Embassy to submit a petition calling for the release of Kampuchea Krom Buddhist monk Tim Sakhorn and five other monks imprisoned in Vietnam, the resolution of land issues, and respect for minority rights. The Ministry of Interior responded swiftly by deploying a large contingent of police and anti-riot forces who arrived armed with shields, electric batons and guns.

After the monks request for a meeting with an Embassy representative was officially rejected, they sat down at the site to conduct a traditional Buddhist ceremony.

At the end of an hour-long of standoff, the monks decided to walk towards the gate of the embassy, where they were met with heavy resistance by the anti-riot police, who used their batons and shields to hit and force back the monks. Some of the monks then threw plastic bottles at the police. The anti-riot unit responded instantly, brutally charging against the monks with their shields and electric batons. The monks then scattered and tried to run away to avoid further injury.

The police continued to violently attack the monks even after they dispersed. They chased the monks four blocks down various side-streets in the area around the Vietnamese Embassy, hitting and beating the monks. Surprised passers-by were told by the police “those who we are beating are not real monks.” (In khmer: “yung wai mun men dejekhun.”)

Two monks were seriously injured after being shocked by electric batons on the backs of their heads; causing one to temporarily lose conscious. Four other monks suffered minor injuries after being assaulted by the police.

Like all citizens, monks have the right to express their opinions and gather peacefully. We appeal to the authorities to refrain from any further use of violence against monks and to ensure that the monks who gathered today will not face any recriminations from religious or state authorities. Furthermore, we request that the relevant authorities investigate and take action against officials that were responsible for assaulting the monks.

Source: CCHR-CHRAC Secretariat , LICADHO and CLEC