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Congressman Urges Freedom of Religion

The US has the ability to sanction governments that restrict freedom of religion, a US congressman said Thursday.

Trent Franks, a Republican representative from Arizona, said international religious groups actively encourage the US to put pressure on countries that restrict religious and political freedom.

International activists "empower the United States in a lot of different ways" to pressure or put sanctions on countries that restrict such freedoms, Franks told VOA Khmer.

Countries like Vietnam or Cambodia should understand "the basic commitment to religious freedom for all making," he said.

Both Cambodia and Vietnam have come under pressure in recent years for the treatment of Khmer Kampuchea Krom minorities, including the defrocking and jailing of Khmer Krom monk Tim Sakhorn.

The Vietnamese government has attempted to erase the religion and nationality of the Khmer Krom, said Prak Sereyvuth, vice president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation.

"On behalf of a Khmer Krom, I think that the religious issue is very important, because Kampuchea Krom Buddhism is a religion for our nation," he said. "More than 500 pagodas are still maintaining our culture, traditional and Buddhist religion. The communist Vietnamese government is using cruel activities through secret politic to destroy our religion and our nation. Several Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks and politic prisoners are still detaining in Vietnam."

Vietnam Embassy spokesman Trinh Ba Cam said only those who violate Vietnamese laws are put in prison.

"There is no political prisoners or [imprisoned] monks in Vietnam," he said. "There are only people who violate Vietnamese law."

The US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedoms is expected to travel to Vietnam in October to seek the release of political and religious prisoners.