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Authorities Break Up Fundraiser Turned Rally

Phnom Penh security forces broke up a religious fund-raising ceremony Friday, following calls from those gathered for the release of Tim Sakhorn, a defrocked monk in jail in Vietnam.

Tim Sakhorn, who has been sentenced to one year in a Vietnam jail, has become a rallying point for advocates of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom ethnic group.Tensions over the treatment of the group have spilled over into violence in past demonstrations, and police say they broke up the fundraiser to ensure public safety.

Friday's gathering was meant as a fund-raiser, organizers said, and turned unruly after some people began calling for the release of Tim Sakhorn. Plainclothes police argued with some of those gathered, witnesses said.

Officials in Phnom Penh's Phnom Den district warned people ahead of the rally not to use the gathering to demand Tim Sakhorn's freedom, organizers said.

"All their forces were deployed, and they kept an eye on the ceremony," Chhim Savuth, an investigator for the Cambodian Human Rights Organization, told VOA Khmer.

"The authorities threatened us not to mention politics, but I want to ask what politics are about," said Mam Sonando, director of the Beehive Radio station.