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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Government blasted over missing monk

Government blasted over missing monk


Nuon Chea, above, presumes himself an ECCC suspect. But experts say media presumptions and public expectation could hurt the trial.

The defrocking and subsequent disappearance of Buddhist abbot Tim Sakhorn has ignited

a furious backlash from rights activists, opposition lawmakers and the Kampuchea

Krom community, some of whom have blasted the government for indifference, illegality

and the use of "big brother" tactics. On July 26, Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian

Yim Sovann, told the Post that the government must provide an explanation for the

situation of one of its citizens. He suspects foul play, and has implicated the highest

ranks of government and Buddhist clergy.

"Such a big case should not have delays like this. It's now over 20 days and

he hasn't been found yet. I worry that there are powerful people behind this who

are scaring people who support the Khmer Krom," said Sovann. "If this is

a case of monk Tim Sakhorn losing his life, the Ministry of Interior and especially

the government has to take responsibility. And Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong has to

take responsibility on this case, too, because he caused it to occur."

Outrage has mounted since the Sakhorn, abbot of Wat Phnom Den, Khang Choeng, in Takeo

province, was publicly expelled June 30 from the clergy by Great Supreme Patriarch

Tep Vong, the Kingdom's highest religious leader.

At the time, Tep Vong claimed that he had banished Sakhorn because he was undermining

relations between Phnom Penh and Hanoi. He later added allegations the Khmer Krom

bikkhu, or teacher, was violating religious code by maintaining a sexual affair.

Krom bikkhu, or teacher, was violating religious code by maintaining sexual affair.

Sakorn disappeared the same day, with some reports claiming witnesses looked on as

he was crammed into a Toyota by unidentified assailants. Confusion remains over his

current location.

Now the government facing rebukes on two fronts. Buddhist experts believe the defrocking

was done in blatant disregard for Buddhist procedure, and human rights groups have

the government's lack of protection for a Cambodian citizen is inexcusable.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Khieu Sopheak, said that after being defrocked

Sakhorn had requested to visit his home village, which the government permitted.

But Sopheak has now admitted that Sakhorn's current whereabouts are unknown to officials,

and called for NGOs to help.

Dr Lao Mong Hay, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch Asia, said the event has

revived the specter of repressive tactics employed by past regimes.

"The "big brother is watching you" is coming back to haunt the Cambodian

people," Mong Hay wrote in a July 25 e-mail.

"The government and the ruling party are merging together, and altogether with

their crony tycoons, they are exercising pervasive control, with violence if needs

be, over nook and cranny of Cambodian society."

And Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring at local rights NGO ADHOC, has cast doubt on the

government's version of events.

"If monk Tim Sakhorn asked to go [to his hometown] by himself, we would have

had news from him, but so far we have had none, so he must have been sent to Vietnam,"

Chakrya said on July 25.

Chakyra said his organization will continue to search for Sakhorn and investigate

the legality behind his mysterious disappearance.

"If we find out the government sent monk Tim Sakhorn to Vietnam due to the fact

he is discrimination Khmer Kampuchea Krom, the government would face international

criminal charges because Cambodia has signed international treaty on the anti-discrimination,"

he said.

Sovann said a recent statement by Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak which

said that Sakhorn is just one Cambodian among 14 million, showed the government doesn't


"This case shows to the world that serious human rights abuses are systemic

in Cambodia," said Sovann.



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