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Cambodian monks protest as Vietnamese president visits, alleging religious persecution

Cambodian monks protest as Vietnamese president visits, alleging religious persecution

Forty Buddhist monks staged a demonstration near the Vietnamese Embassy in the Cambodian capital Tuesday, alleging Hanoi is repressing ethnic Cambodian monks living in southern Vietnam.
The protest coincided with the arrival of Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet for a three-day state visit to Cambodia.
Hanoi only permits a handful of state-sponsored religious organizations to operate in Vietnam, which has led to clashes with some religious groups, including Buddhists.
One of the protesters was Son Hai, a 26-year-old monk who said he had fled from southern Vietnam only two months ago to escape persecution.
He said the Vietnamese authorities there have constantly cracked down on ethnic Cambodian Buddhist monks by preventing them from fully practicing their faith.
"We want to meet the Vietnamese president to ask him to stop jailing Kampuchea Krom's monks," he said as he stood among fellow monks surrounded by the police. He did not elaborate.
A large part of southern Vietnam, known in Cambodia as Kampuchea Krom, used to be part of Cambodia's mighty Khmer empire centuries ago and is still populated by many ethnic Cambodians.
Vietnam's human rights record has been sharply criticized by international human rights organizations and several Western countries, including the United States.
The protesting monks had planned to gather directly in front of the embassy in Phnom Penh, but about 50 riot police armed with automatic rifles and batons pushed them about 200 meters (yards) away.
The protesters eventually dispersed peacefully. Cambodian monks have traditionally spearheaded social and political protests.
Three prominent Cambodian human rights groups issued a joint statement condemning police for the heavy-handed treatment of the protest.
They said the deployment of police armed with shields, tear gas, electric batons and guns was unnecessary and showed "yet another restriction on freedom of peaceful assembly in Cambodia."
Touch Naroth, the Phnom Penh city police chief, said the monks did not have permission to hold the protest. He said police were under orders to tighten security for the visiting Vietnamese leader.
The police chief said the monks had to wait until the Vietnamese leader finished his visit to make their protest.
Nguyen Minh Triet is due to talk with King Norodom Sihamoni and other Cambodian leaders, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, during his visit, which ends Thursday.


Updated : 2021-10-26 09:51 GMT+08:00