A Cambodian monk is currently stuck in Vietnam and unable to return to his home in Cambodia after Vietnamese authorities confiscated his passport, according to several sources.
Seun Ty is a member of the Vietnamese ethnic minority Khmer Krom but now holds Cambodian citizenship since 2003 after emigrating from Vietnam.
He had been visiting family and friends in Vietnam’s Soc Trang province since January 24, but was summoned by police on February 02 to answer questions about Facebook postings deemed to have broken Vietnamese law.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service on Tuesday, Seun Ty said that he had posted information on rights abuses against ethnic Khmer Krom only while in Cambodia and that he was therefore not subject to laws in Vietnam restricting discussions held online.
Appeals to Cambodia’s embassy in Hanoi for help in recovering his passport have so far gone unanswered, Seun Ty said.
“It seems that they aren’t paying attention,” he said, adding, “Even though I have called and emailed them, they have not made any response.”
Also speaking to RFA, Sok Dareth—head of the Cambodian consulate in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City—said he had personally advised the monk to seek the embassy’s intervention, “as they have greater influence.”
Cambodia’s ambassador to Vietnam Chhay Navuth was meanwhile unavailable for comment on Tuesday.
In a February 09 statement, the New Jersey-based Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) said that Seun Ty now lives at a Khmer Krom temple in Soc Trang while waiting for his case to be resolved.
“The Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation urgently calls on the international community to urge Vietnam to return the Cambodian passport of Venerable Seun Ty,” the rights group said, adding that Vietnam must respect the monk’s right to return to his own country.
Seun Ty “has a right to share whatever info he likes on his Facebook page,” the rights group added.
France’s Cochinchina colony, which included the former provinces of Kampuchea Krom, was officially ceded to Vietnam in 1949, though it had been already been under Vietnamese control since the mid-17th century.
Ethnically similar to Cambodians, the Khmer Krom now living in Vietnam face serious restrictions of freedom of expression, assembly, information, and movement, while authorities also tightly control their practice of Theravada Buddhism—seeing the religion as a foundation of the minority group’s distinct culture and ethnic identity.
Meanwhile, because they are often perceived as Vietnamese by Cambodians, many Khmer Krom living in Cambodia also face social and economic discrimination. (Source: RFA)