Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Khmer Krom activist holds talks with UNHCR officials

Khmer Krom activist holds talks with UNHCR officials

Khmer Krom activist holds talks with UNHCR officials

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090421_03.jpg

Tim Sakhorn meets officials in Bangkok as part of asylum bid.

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Tim Sakhorn, photographed in Takeo province after arriving from Vietnam April 4. 

KHMER Krom activist Tim Sakhorn met with officials of the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Monday in Bangkok to apply for political asylum in the United States, but he will have to wait until at least June 20 to learn his fate.

The 41-year-old monk was arrested and defrocked in June 2007 before being jailed for one year in Vietnam for his advocacy on behalf of southern Vietnam's ethnic Khmer minority.

He was allowed to visit family in Takeo province April 4, but was reordained and fled to Thailand the following week.

Kitty McKinsey, UNHCR's Asia spokesperson, said that the organisation's policy was not to discuss the progress of individual cases.

But Tim Sakhorn confirmed by phone Monday that he had met with UNHCR officials, who set the ball rolling on his bid to seek asylum in the US.

"[The officials] asked me who had defrocked me and the reason they did that. I told them I was defrocked by head monks Tep Vong and Non Nget after being accused of undermining the unity between Cambodia and Vietnam," he said.

But he said that his fate remained uncertain following the meeting, and that UNHCR would inform him of the success of his bid June 20.

"I hope that I will be given asylum in America because a lot of human rights groups have encouraged them to give me refuge," he added.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that the government did not object to Tim Sakhorn's attempt to seek refuge abroad, and that it was an individual right guaranteed under local law.

But he added that the activist, like the country's 14 million other citizens, had little to fear in the Kingdom as long as he obeyed the law.

"He has nothing to fear unless he is doing something counter to the laws of Cambodia," he said Monday.

But Non Nget, Supreme Patriarch of the Buddhist Mohanikay sect, denied he had taken part in Tim Sakhorn being banished from the monkhood in 2007.

"I have never known Tim Sakhorn or seen his face," he said Monday, blaming local monks for the defrocking.

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