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Religious freedom reigns in Cambodia

Religious freedom reigns in Cambodia

The Cambodian government has been praised for its policies on religious freedom in

an annual global report that describes the kingdom as a place where different faiths

coexist peacefully.

The International Religious Freedom Report 2004, released by the United States Department

of State on September 15, said the Cambodian "government policy and practice

contributed to the generally free practice of religion."

There was no specific mention of the four teachers who remain in jail on terrorism

charges after the forced closure of their Saudi-funded Islamic school in Kandal province

in May last year.

The two Thais, an Egyptian and a Cambodian citizen were accused of having links to

the outlawed terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.

A statement from human rights group Amnesty International earlier this month said

the excessive detention of the men was alienating the Cham Muslim community and increased

the risk of terrorism activity.

However, the US report was upbeat about relations between the 700,000 Cambodian Muslims

and the rest of the predominantly Theravada Buddhist population.

"In general the Cham Muslims are integrated well into society, enjoy positions

of prominence in business and in the government, and faced no reported acts of discrimination

or abuse during the period covered by this report," said a press release from

the US Embassy.

The report said occasional tensions have been reported among the branches of Islam

which receive funding from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Malaysia or Indonesia.

United Nations offices in Phnom Penh and Rattankiri are currently sheltering 398

Montagnards, members of an ethnic minority who fled the mountains of central Vietnam

for Cambodia after a violent crackdown by authorities in April.

The disputes between Montagnards and the authorities are said to be over a range

of issues including land rights and religion.

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