Activists for the Khmer ethnic group living in southern Vietnam have condemned the defrocking of a monk there this month as a blow to religious freedom, alleging that Vietnamese authorities exaggerated sexual assault claims against him to tarnish the reputation of a Khmer pagoda.
Ethnic Khmer and Vietnamese follow two different forms of Buddhism, and Khmers living in Vietnam, a group known as Khmer Kampuchea Krom, have long complained of political and social intimidation in southern Vietnam, which was once a part of the Cambodia.
The 19-year-old defrocked monk, Ly Sorn, told VOA Khmer that he had startled a cleaning woman at his pagoda in Vinh Chau district, Soc Trang province.
The 60-year-old woman, Danh Thi Tu, later put her thumbprint to an official complaint, giving authorities reason to defrock the monk, the US-based Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation said in a statement.
Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the federation, said Vietnamese authorities have worked to intimidate Khmer monks and prevent them from exercising their right to assembly since protests in 2007.
Thach Horn, a Vietnamese district official, declined to comment when reached by phone.
Ly Sorn said he will remain at the Ta Sek pagoda in hopes of being re-ordained.
“To make allegations like this is not right,” he said. “I want to be re-ordained to help build the pagoda.”