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Vietnam Urged to Respect Rights of Khmer Krom

The US-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged the Vietnamese government to immediately free Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks and land rights activists from prison or house arrest for their involvement in the “peaceful expression of their political and religious beliefs.”

At least five Khmer Krom monks have been released from prison in recent months, but their movements have been restricted, according to the Cambodian organization the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community.

Thach Setha, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, appealed to the United Nations and the European Union, as well as the new administration in the US, to take additional measures to pressure the Vietnamese government “to respect the rights” of Khmer Krom and other indigenous people.

Ly Son was released Nov. 23, 2008; Kim Moeun, Danh Toan and Thach Thoeung were released Jan. 18; and Ly Hoang was released Tuesday, according to the group.

However they have been “prohibited” from being reinstated as monks, despite official requests, the group said.

Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams said such a release “doesn’t address the fundamental problem of the Vietnamese government continuing to jail people for peaceful expression of their religious or political views.”

“The underlying problems faced by the Khmer Krom in Vietnam still remain,” he said.

Human Righs Watch on Wednesday issued a full report on abuses of Khmer Krom, a minority group in Vietnam with cultural ties to Cambodia.

“Wary about possible Khmer Krom nationalist aspirations, Vietnam has suppressed peaceful expressions of dissent and banned Khmer Krom human rights publications,” the group said in a statement.

Vietnam Embassy officials could not be reached for comment.