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Vietnam arrests 3 more Khmer Krom Buddhists

The arrest is part of a crackdown on activists from the ethnic group to silence dissent, critics say
Abbot Thach Chanh Da Ra (left) of Dai Tho Pagoda and Kim Khiem are seen in this file image.

Abbot Thach Chanh Da Ra (left) of Dai Tho Pagoda and Kim Khiem are seen in this file image. (Photo: RFA)

Published: March 28, 2024 10:43 AM GMT
Updated: March 28, 2024 11:09 AM GMT

Police in southern ietnam arrested three Khmer Krom Buddhists including a monk amid a crackdown on the activists from the ethnic group, media reports say.

Abbot Thach Chanh Ra Da, 34, of Dai Tho Pagoda and his 45-year-old follower Kim Khiem were arrested on March 26 for “abusing democratic freedom to infringe on benefits of the state, organizations and individuals,” under the penal code’s Article 331, state-run Vinh Long newspaper reported.

The activists criticize Article 331 as a vaguely written legal provision, misused to stifle dissent in the communist-ruled state.

Since 2020, Da and Khiem have used their Facebook accounts to post comments, share photos and live-stream videos that slander and insult the reputation of government agencies and honor of individuals, the communist newspaper said.

Da was also disavowed as a Buddhist monk and expelled from the government-controlled national Buddhist association, the report added.

Earlier, police arrested Thach Ve Sanal on charges of “illegally arresting, holding, or detaining people,” for his alleged role in an incident that occurred when government authorities entered the pagoda for investigation last November, the newspaper said.

The three arrested people are from Tam Binh district of Vinh Long province in the southern Mekong Delta, which is home to 1.3 million Khmer Krom people who are believed to be migrants from Cambodia.

Duong Khai, a monk at the pagoda, described the government’s accusations about the three men as fabricated since “they distort and slander us, not the other way around.”

Khai accused authorities of “constantly coming to harass us, disturbing our indigenous Khmer Krom community and giving us no days of peace,” Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.

The monk said that authorities arrest whoever they dislike, especially those who tell the truth about the government’s wrongdoings.

He said Kim Khiem was arrested because he spoke out about their repression of Khmer Krom.

The Tro Nom Sek temple, a Khmer-Krom sanctuary, has been coerced into affiliation with the state-controlled Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) despite the community’s longstanding stance to maintain autonomy and practice Theravada Buddhism independently.

The U.S.-based Kampuchea Krom Khmers Federation accused Vietnam of unfairly targeting Ra as a means to force the pagoda to join the VBS.

“He merely exercises his right to freely advocate the right to practice Theravada Buddhism for his indigenous Khmer-Krom community,” the federation said in a press release.

It demanded the "immediate release" of Venerable Thach Chanh Da Ra, Kim Khiem, and Thach Ve Sanal and "the dismissal of all charges against them.”

Last week, two Khmer Krom activists - To Hoang Chuong and Thach Cuong - were sentenced to four years and three-and-a-half years in jail by a court in southern Tra Vinh province. They were also charged under Article 331.

On a similar charge in February, a court sentenced activist Danh Minh Quang to three-and-a-half years behind bars. 

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