Khmer Krom demonstrate in Phnom Penh against raids, arrests in Vietnam

The protest is related to a dispute between a pagoda and authorities in Vietnam’s Vinh Long province.
By RFA Khmer
2024.04.24
Khmer Krom demonstrate in Phnom Penh against raids, arrests in Vietnam Buddhist monks burn Vietnamese flags made of paper as they join other protesters near the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh October 4, 2014.
Samrang Pring/Reuters

About 100 Khmer Krom people protested in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to demand that Cambodia urge Vietnam’s government to release 13 activists and monks who were recently arrested. 

Protesters instead gathered at Wat Samaki Rainsy in the capital after the government didn’t grant permission for the use of Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park – the site of large political demonstrations in past years.

The nearly 1.3-million strong Khmer Krom indigenous community live in a part of Vietnam that was once southeastern Cambodia. They have faced serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and movement.

Additionally, the Vietnamese government has tried to restrict and control Buddhist temples attended by Khmer Krom people.

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Embassy of Vietnam in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 6, 2017. (Trinhhoa via Wikipedia)

In late March, Vietnamese police in Vinh Long province arrested four Buddhist monks and an activist from the Khmer Krom indigenous group during a raid at Dai Tho Pagoda, known as the Tro Nom Sek pagoda in Khmer language.

Two days before that raid, police arrested the head of the pagoda, Thach Chanh Da Ra, and two other followers. 

The dispute between local authorities and the pagoda dates back to November and has resulted in several other arrests, as well as the destruction of a lecture hall linked to the pagoda. 

Motorbike procession

Several civil society organizations devoted to the rights of the Khmer Krom participated in Wednesday’s protest. 

Ten monks and other representatives took part in a motorbike procession through the streets of Phnom Penh to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to Son Chhum Chuon, vice president of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association for Human Rights and Development. 

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Cambodian Buddhist monks hold banner reading "Kampuchea Krom is Khmer homeland" during a rally in front of Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, July 21, 2014. (Heng Sinith/AP)

They handed petitions to Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and asked that they be forwarded to the Vietnamese, Japanese and United States embassies, Son Chhum Chuon said. 

“We ask that Cambodia and embassies intervene with the Vietnamese government to release the activists and monks who are being detained,” the petitions read. “We ask the authorities to release them to freedom. Return to them their freedom and religious freedom.”

The petitioners also asked that Vietnamese authorities allow for the lecture hall to be rebuilt, Son Chhum Chuon said. 

RFA was unable to reach Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry for comment on the protest on Wednesday. The Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh was also unavailable for comment. 

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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