About 30 villagers from Kirivong town in Takeo province put their marks to a petition Friday, asking government authorities to find a recently defrocked monk who has gone missing.
Tim Sokhorn, a Khmer Kampuchea Krom monk who led a pagoda in Takeo, was last seen reportedly being forced into a vehicle after he was ordered defrocked for allegedly stirring unrest between Cambodia and Vietnam. Buddhist leaders said he was allowing Khmer Krom monks to stay at the pagoda and inciting them to protest and violence.
The monk's disappearance has led to a wave of unrest and fear among Khmer Krom monks and laymen, and the rights of the minority group overall are often politically charged and potentially destabilizing. The government has so far been unable to allay fears the monk was sent to Vietnam against his will.
"We want to take the petition to the National Assembly to find a solution for Tim Sokhorn," said one of his followers Friday. "There is no reason for him to disappear. If he made an offense in Cambodia, he should be tried in Cambodia. We want all high-ranking officials to help find him, dead or alive."
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Tim Sokhorn went to Vietnam willingly.
"He asked us permission to go. Now we don't know where he is," Khieu Sopheak said. "The departments involved also want us to find him, as he is a Cambodian citizen."