Urgent Call to Protect Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Khmer-Krom Human Rights Defenders and Buddhist Monk Targeted by Vietnamese Authorities

Urgent Call to Protect Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Khmer-Krom Human Rights Defenders and Buddhist Monk Targeted by Vietnamese Authorities
Source: VOKK



Human Rights Researcher 

Global Human Rights Defence

The recent arrests and temporary detention of prominent figures within the Khmer-Krom community by the Vietnamese communist regime police have sparked widespread concern. On March 26th, 2024, Venerable Thach Chanh Da Ra, a revered Khmer-Krom monk from the Tro Nom Sek temple in Dai Tho hamlet, Long My village, Tam Binh District, Vinh Long province, vanished for several hours before news surfaced in the online newspaper of the Department of Internal Security of Vinh Long Provincial Police. It was revealed that Venerable Thach Chanh Da Ra, alongside Mr. Kim Khiem, were apprehended on their way to the Tro Nom Sek temple from the religious hall in Tong Hung hamlet and are now detained under the charge of "Abusing democratic freedom," according to Article 331 of the Vietnam criminal code.

This incident has set off alarm bells within advocacy circles dedicated to indigenous Khmer-Krom rights in Vietnam, emphasising ongoing tensions surrounding the promotion and safeguarding of fundamental rights for the Khmer-Krom people and highlighting potential violations of human rights principles. Additionally, Mr. Thach Ve Sanal was arrested on the same day and is facing charges under Article 157 for merely assisting in the defence of the Tro Nom Sek temple when local gang members attacked it on November 22th, 2023.

The origins of this troubling incident trace back to December 3rd, 2023, when Vietnamese authorities and the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS) threatened to not recognise Venerable Thach Chanh Da Ra as a Buddhist monk. Despite the resistance of the Khmer-Krom community, who staunchly supported Venerable Thach, the VBS failed to defrock him due to his commitment to Buddhist principles. However, this setback did not deter the authorities, who escalated their surveillance and eventually arrested him. Charged with an unfounded offence, Venerable Thach faces renewed efforts to strip him of his monkhood. His advocacy efforts express his rights as an indigenous Buddhist monk. They are a testament to his dedication to advocating for religious freedom, a cause he champions alongside his spiritual duties.

The common thread among these incidents lies in the targeting and apprehension of individuals engaged in advocating for the rights of indigenous Khmer-Krom communities in Vietnam. Whether through arrest or suspicious disappearances, these actions represent potential violations of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, association, and movement. Such actions undermine the principles of democracy and the rule of law, posing significant challenges to protecting and promoting human rights within the region.

The Khmer-Krom people's right to advocate for religious freedom is fundamental, and the oppressive actions taken by the Vietnamese authorities ought to be condemned. The international community must support the Khmer-Krom people in their quest for justice and the United Nations should hold Vietnam accountable for failing its obligations as a member of the Human Rights Council.