Representatives of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom community in the United States met Tuesday with officials at the US State Department Wednesday to report on rights violations of ethnic Khmer living in southern Vietnam.
The group is also seeking intervention for a number of refugees, including Tim Sakorn, the former head monk of a Takeo province pagoda who has fled to Thailand after being forcibly defrocked in Cambodia and jailed in Vietnam.
Many Cambodians still refer to the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam as Kampuchea Krom, or Lower Cambodia, which once belonged to a former Cambodian regime.
“We informed [the State Department] that Buddhism in Kampuchea Krom is being controlled by the Vietnamese government, and we want its independence from this communist control,” Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation told VOA Khmer after the meeting.
The group also discussed “land eviction by the government via sending Khmer Krom people away and replacing them with the Vietnamese…and refugees in Thailand now being taken care of by the UN High Commissioner for Refugee so that they can be resettled to the US once they pass the interview,” he said.
Thach Ngoc Thach added that the meeting also discussed how to encourage Khmer Krom students from poor families to have better chances to study overseas.
No official at the State Department was available for comment about the meeting on Wednesday.
Former monk Tim Sakhorn is now living under UN protection in Thailand. His application to resettle in a third country, possibly the United State, is being processed and the result is expected in June 20, he said by phone from Bangkok.
Tim Sakhorn fled to Thailand earlier this year. He spent nearly one year in a Vietnamese jail after he was defrocked in Takeo province, for allegedly fomenting unrest between the two countries.
He spent time in Cambodia in April to attend a death ceremony for his mother, but refuses to return to Vietnam, where he claims he is under constant surveillance and virtual house arrest.
“I would like to make an appeal to international organizations and UNHCR to please process my case as soon as possible so that I can get away from fear and live in peace,” he said by phone. “This is the same with many Khmer Krom people and monks who have escaped from Cambodia to stay here. There are a number of them and they live in fear, so please process their cases as soon as possible.”