THE editor of a weekly paper covering the Khmer Krom community said yesterday he was afraid of being deported after the chief of the pagoda where he lives asked him to resign from his position, apparently at the behest of the government.
Thach Prei Chea Keoun said yesterday that the chief of Ang Taminh pagoda on Sunday asked him to resign from his position and confiscated his passport and identity card.
“I have refused to resign, but now I am afraid that I will be arrested and sent back to Vietnam,” he said.
The pagoda chief, Yan That, could not be reached, but Kim Wann Chheng, a Khmer Krom assistant to Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, said yesterday that the government wanted Thach Prei Chea Keoun to resign from Prey Nokor News.
“So far, I have not received his resignation letter,” Kim Wann Chheng said. “We asked him to resign because we are concerned about his safety and his reputation, because his editorials are sometimes against the government’s policies and may cause him to get into trouble.”
He went on to deny that Thach Prei Chea Keoun’s passport and identity card had been confiscated permanently, saying Yan That had likely assumed temporary custody of them “to keep them safe”.
Thach Prei Chea Keoun said his paper received a licence from the Information Ministry last January and began publishing in February.
He said the content of the paper was primarily related to “news about the culture and geography” of the Khmer Krom, Vietnam’s ethnic Khmer population.
He said that he had already been denied permission to live at two pagodas in the capital – Wat Botum and Wat Mohamontrey – because of concerns on the part of Buddhist leadership about his role at the newspaper.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said yesterday that he was unaware of the editor’s case, but that he considered it “against the Buddhist principles” for a monk to work for a newspaper.