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Monks Join Anti-Vietnam Protest

Dozens of Buddhist monks joined a demonstration Tuesday to demand more religious freedom of a minority ethnic group living in Vietnam.

The demonstration, organized by the Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights Organization, was held outside the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh and coincided with the start of the three-day official visit of Vietnam President Nguyen Minh Triet.

Recently, Vietnamese authorities defrocked nine monks belonging to the ethnic group after the monks reportedly asked for religious and literary freedoms and the return of ancestral land, upsetting activist groups in Cambodia.

More than 100 police armed with electric prods and AK-47s dispersed demonstrators, calling the assembly illegal.

Opposition party legislator Keo Remy, meanwhile, said the demonstration should push Vietnam to consider more religious freedoms for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom people, more than 1 million of whom live in the Mekong Delta region of Cambodia's neighbor.

Nearly 1,000 schoolchildren waving Cambodian and Vietnamese flags greeted the president, who is expected to meet with King Norodom Sihamoni, Senate leader Chea Sim, National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen.