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Khmer Krom Monks Describe Fleeing Vietnam

Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks are continuing to flee Vietnam in what they say is an exodus from persecution there.

The monks often find refuge in Cambodia's pagodas, but a Khmer Krom monk who housed such refugees was defrocked earlier this month on grounds he was fomenting unrest between the two Southeast Asian neighbors.

The monk, Tim Sakhorn, is missing; rights groups worry he was forcibly expelled to Vietnam, which the government denies.

Venerable Yoeung Sin of Samaki Reangsei temple in Phnom Penh told VOA Khmer that many monks were now leaving the Khmer Krom regions of Vietnam.

"As far as I know, more than 10 monks have left, but now there are only 2 who came here [to my pagoda] because of threats," he said.

Other monks were likely afraid to stay at his pagoda, because they would be easy for authorities to round up and send back, he said.

Venerable Ly Da, a Khmer Krom monk, said he came to Cambodia fleeing intimidation by Vietnamese authorities.

"They threatened to arrest many monks," he said. "They threatened to arrest 21 monks who were being defrocked and put them in prison."

Vietnam Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Kim said the monks had a right to talk, but each of them probably had individual reasons for leaving Vietnam.

"In Vietnam there are no crackdown activities or mistreatments of the Khmer monks," he said.