The editor of a Cambodia-based newspaper that has been critical of Hanoi's treatment of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority was briefly detained by Vietnamese authorities over the weekend along with his family while on a trip to the country, according to relatives.
Ly Chhoun, who runs the Prey Nokor newspaper, and his wife and daughter were held on Saturday in southern Vietnam’s An Giang province and released the next day, a relative speaking on condition of anonymity told RFA’s Khmer Service.
The three had traveled from Cambodia to visit their hometown in Vietnam’s Tra Vinh province for the Khmer New Year.
Authorities accused them of illegally crossing the border even though they carried Cambodian passports, according to the relative.
The Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment Monday.
Ly Chhoun had been traveling to Vietnam legally, but expected that authorities might stop him, so he was trying to make the trip without drawing attention to himself, relatives said.
Ly Chhoun’s daughter Ly Sinath told RFA the Vietnamese authorities detained the family “without giving any reason.”
'Nothing to do with the newspaper'
The weekly Prey Nokor newspaper covers issues related to the persecution of Khmer Krom in Vietnam, where the government bans human rights publications about the group.
The Khmer Krom, many of whom have moved to Cambodia to escape persecution, are from southern Vietnam’s lower Mekong delta region, which Cambodians sometimes call "Kampuchea Krom," or "Lower Cambodia."
As Khmers, they are ethnically similar to most Cambodians and are considered outsiders in Vietnam, where they face social persecution and strict religious controls.
Thach Pre, the paper’s editor-in-chief, said he believed Ly Chhoun was held because of his involvement in journalism.
“Ly Chhoun’s trip to Vietnam had nothing to do with his newspaper. He wanted to visit his aging mother,” he said.
Sonn Chhum Choun, director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, expressed concern about Ly Chhoun’s arrest, calling it an abuse of human rights.
In March, prominent Khmer Krom Son Soubert, a Cambodian opposition party leader and adviser to Cambodian King Nordom, was barred by Vietnamese authorities from visiting the country.
Vietnamese embassy officials said he was not allowed in out of concern for his personal safety.
Earlier that month, six Khmer Krom men were arrested for their involvement in the Khmer National Rescue Front, a group of political dissidents charged with planning violent attacks on the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Reported and translated by Samean Yun for RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.