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Cablegate: Five Ethnic Khmer Monks Imprisoned in the Mekong Delta

VZCZCXRO2205
PP RUEHHM
DE RUEHHM #0520 1311014
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111014Z MAY 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2616
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 1895
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH PRIORITY 0029
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 2813

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000520

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF SOCI PINR VM
SUBJECT: FIVE ETHNIC KHMER MONKS IMPRISONED IN THE MEKONG DELTA

REF: HCMC 489

1. (SBU) Five ethnic Khmer monks from the Mekong Delta province
of Soc Trang were sentenced by the local provincial court on May
10 to between two and four years imprisonment for "disturbing
public order." The five allegedly were organizers of protests
in Soc Trang on February 8. The incident reportedly stemmed
from a "routine" traffic stop of two or three Khmer monks on a
motorbike that escalated into a confrontation between local
Khmer monks and the police. Monks Kim Muol (aka Kim Muon) and
Danh Tol were sentenced to four-years in prison, Thach Thuong
received a three-year sentence and Ly Suong received a two-year
sentence. These four individuals were reported detained in
Reftel. A fifth, previously unknown Khmer Buddhist, Ly Hoang,
also was sentenced to two-years imprisonment.

2. (SBU) According to HCMC TV and press, which covered the
trial, Kim Muol, Danh Tol and Ly Hoang, "slandered" traffic
police by accusing the authorities of preventing the monk or
monks involved in the traffic stop from begging for food and
thereby violating their religious freedom. According to the
prosecutor's indictment, the three "incited" more than 100
Buddhist students from the local seminary to protest in front of
the police station, "causing a traffic jam and serious impact on
daily life of people and organizations in the area for over 2
hours." Ly Suong and Thach Thuong allegedly organized another
30 monks from a neighboring pagoda to join the protest. The
television report on the trial concluded with the editorial
comment that "this is the lesson for those who abuse religion to
disturb the People's solidarity."

3. (SBU) Comment: Contacts in the Mekong Delta, who earlier
were willing to discuss the detention and defrocking of ethnic
Khmer monks (Reftel) were evasive or refused to provide
information on the trial even though we were told that they
attended. In its handing out of tough sentences for relatively
minor protests and its public warning that others that "disturb
the People's solidarity" would get the same treatment, the GVN
once again is making clear that it will brook no whiff of public
dissent or discontent. End Comment.

WINNICK

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