WASHINGTON DC - A Khmer minority monk in Vietnam has been disrobed by authorities there, in what rights workers say is a violation of his rights to freedom of religion.
Thach Thuol, 25, of Tra Set temple in Soc Trang province, was defrocked and accused of associating with a US-based advocacy group for Khmer ethnic minorities in Vietnam, known as the Khmer Kampuchea Krom.
Speaking to VOA Khmer from Vietnam, Thach Thuol said he did not accept the defrocking, despite a message to some 70 temples from the Vietnamese government ordering them not to recognize his religious authority as a monk.
Thach Ngoc Thach, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation, a US advocacy group, said the defrocking was a violation of Thach Thuol’s rights and amounted to “pressure to break the spirit of the monks and Cambodian people.”
Some Cambodians consider the lower Mekong Delta a lost part of the country, after it was ceded to Vietnam by France in the colonial era. Khmer minorities in Vietnam say they are subject to unfair policies and crackdowns, especially over their form of Buddhism, which differs from that typically practiced by other groups in Vietnam.
In a statement, the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation said Vietnamese authorities have continuously targeted the Tra Set temple, in Soc Trang’s Vinh Chau district, because monks there refuse to join the government-sanctioned Patriotic United Buddhist Association.