The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday it will not intervene to help free nine Khmer Krom people in prison in Vietnam because it does not consider them Cambodian.
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA) wrote to the ministry late last year and again early this year asking it to urge Vietnam to release the group, which includes two monks.
The monks were among a group detained on May 21 last year in an area of southern Vietnam once part of the Khmer empire and referred to by some as Kampuchea Krom.
They were accused of associating with foreign Khmer Krom associations.
The monks’ supporters claim that when they were arrested, police defrocked them, dressed them in rice sacks and forced them into a truck.
A letter signed by Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the ministry on Friday, and obtained yesterday, says Cambodia has no right to challenge Vietnam’s sovereignty by interfering in a matter in its territory.
“The Khmer Krom people who live in Vietnam are Vietnamese and subject to Vietnamese law,” the letter says. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is sorry but it cannot interfere with Vietnam’s internal affairs.”
Son Chum Chuon, a program officer at KKKHRDA, said he was disappointed by the ministry’s response.
“We cannot accept it,” he said, adding that those arrested are Cambodian and deserve help from their leaders.
The allegations against the monks, he added, were unreasonable and violated the rights of the Khmer Krom people.