Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mistreatment of Khmer Krom protested

The mistreatment of the Khmer Krom ethnic minority in Vietnam was protested in a 125-page report issued by Human Rights Watch today. The report, titled "On the Margins: Rights Abuses of Ethnic Khmer in Vietnam's Mekong Delta," said the Vietnam government has suppressed peaceful expression of dissent, banned Khmer Krom human rights publications, and tightly controls Theravada Buddhism, the major religion of the Khmer Krom. It also noted the mistreatment of the Khmer Krom in Cambodia. A press release accompanying the report noted:

Drawing on detailed interviews with witnesses in both Vietnam and Cambodia, the report shows that Khmer Krom in Vietnam face serious restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, association, information, and movement. In researching this report, Human Rights Watch came into possession of internal memos circulated by the Communist Party of Vietnam and Vietnamese government officials outlining their concerns about unrest among Khmer Krom in the Mekong Delta and strategies to monitor, infiltrate, and silence Khmer Krom activists. The documents are included in an appendix to the report.

The report gave particular attention to the harsh police crackdown against a demonstration of 200 Khmer Krom Buddhist monks in Soc Trang province in February 2007:

Protesters called for greater religious freedom and more Khmer-language education. Although the protest was peaceful and lasted only a few hours, the Vietnamese government responded harshly. Police surrounded the pagodas of monks suspected of leading the protest. Local authorities and government-appointed Buddhist officials subsequently expelled at least 20 monks from the monkhood, forcing them to defrock and give up their monks' robes, and banishing them from their pagodas. The authorities sent the monks back to their home villages and put them under house arrest or police detention, without issuing arrest warrants or specifying the charges against them. During interrogations, police beat some of the monks.

Sources: Human Rights Watch press release and report Jan. 21.


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