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
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,"
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.