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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sweden takes in Sakhorn

Sweden takes in Sakhorn

But concerns remain about 56 new Khmer Krom deportees.

KHMER KROM monk Tim Sakhorn flew to Sweden on Friday after the approval of his application for political asylum, but uncertainty surrounds the fate of 56 Khmer Krom refugees deported by Thai authorities over the weekend, according to civil society groups.

Thach Setha, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community, told the Post that the 41-year-old monk left Bangkok for Sweden after waiting two months for his asylum bid to be confirmed.

Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organisation, said Tim Sakhorn appeared "happy" ahead of his departure for Europe.

"Tim Sakhorn is OK. He has been granted asylum already, and he is in Europe," he said.

But Ang Chanrith voiced concern for the refugees deported through the Poipet border crossing Friday.

He called on the Cambodian government to provide shelter for the 56 refugees, who have no family in Cambodia, and expressed the fear that they would be imprisoned if they returned to Vietnam.

Thach Setha said the deportees had been scheduled to be interviewed by officials from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before their arrest and were being sheltered temporarily by an NGO in Poipet.

He said the group, which fled to Bangkok in 2007 and 2008, included one monk.

"When they arrived on Friday, Cambodian immigration police at Poipet held them from 9:10am until 5 in the evening without food," he said.

He added that the UNHCR and local NGOs were attempting to clarify their status.

Sao Bunrith, chief of Poipet's immigration police, said Sunday there was no documentation proving the 56 deportees were Khmer Krom.

"They come from Takeo and Kampot and Prey Veng provinces. They are Khmer citizens, not Kampuchea Krom," he said.

"They went to Thailand to find jobs, and when found by the Thai authorities they were arrested."

He also dismissed claims that the deportees were mistreated, saying all were provided with food while being questioned on Friday.

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