Cambodian Monk Stuck in Vietnam as Police Seize Passport


2020-02-11
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Cambodian Khmer Krom monk Seun Ty is shown at the Tinh Bien border crossing in Vietnam in an undated photo.
Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation

A Cambodian monk belonging to the ethnic Khmer Krom minority group has been left stranded in Vietnam after Vietnamese police seized his passport, leaving him effectively stateless and unable to return home, according to several sources.

Seun Ty, a Cambodian citizen after moving there from Vietnam in 2003, had been visiting family and friends in Vietnam’s Soc Trang province since Jan. 24, and was summoned by police on Feb. 2 to answer questions about Facebook postings deemed to have broken Vietnamese law.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, Seun Ty—a Buddhist monk—said that he had posted information on rights abuses against ethnic Khmer Krom only while in Cambodia, and that he was therefore not subject to laws in Vietnam restricting discussions held online.

Appeals to Cambodia’s embassy in Hanoi for help in recovering his passport have so far gone unanswered, Seun Ty said.

“It seems that they aren’t paying attention,” he said, adding, “Even though I have called and emailed them, they have not made any response.”

Also speaking to RFA, Sok Dareth—head of the Cambodian consulate in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City—said he had personally advised the monk to seek the embassy’s intervention, “as they have greater influence.”

Cambodia’s ambassador to Vietnam Chhay Navuth was meanwhile unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

'A right to share'

In a Feb. 9 statement, the New Jersey-based Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) said that Seun Ty now lives at a Khmer Krom temple, Wat Peam Boun, in Soc Trang’s Tran Thoi district while waiting for his case to be resolved.

“The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation urgently calls on the international community to urge Vietnam to return the Cambodian passport of Venerable Seun Ty,” the rights group said, adding that Vietnam must respect the monk’s right to return to his own country.

Seun Ty “has a right to share whatever info he likes on his Facebook page,” the rights group added.

France’s Cochinchina colony, which included the former provinces of Kampuchea Krom, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949, though it had been already been under Vietnamese control since the mid-17th century.

Ethnically similar to Cambodians, the Khmer Krom now living in Vietnam face serious restrictions of freedom of expression, assembly, information, and movement, while authorities also tightly control their practice of Theravada Buddhism—seeing the religion as a foundation of the minority group’s  distinct culture and ethnic identity.

Meanwhile, because they are often perceived as Vietnamese by Cambodians, many Khmer Krom living in Cambodia also face social and economic discrimination.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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