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Cablegate: Khmer Krom Monk Tim Sakhorn Resurfaces in Vietnam Courts

VZCZCXRO6760
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0836 2220707
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100707Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2972
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHPF/AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH 0033
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2098
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3175

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000836

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PREF KIRF PREL PGOV PHUM CB VM
SUBJECT: KHMER KROM MONK TIM SAKHORN RESURFACES IN VIETNAM COURTS

REF: A) HCMC 733; B) HCMC 520; C) PHNOM PENH 0905

1. (SBU) On August 2, Vietnamese newspaper Thanh Nien reported
that Tim Sakhorn, the Khmer Krom monk believed to have been
defrocked and deported by Cambodian officials (Refs A and B), is
now being held in the southern Vietnam province of An Giang for
"sabotaging the solidarity policy." In the report, police claim
that Sakhorn had entered Vietnam illegally and confessed to
inciting riots and demonstrations against the GVN. He was
accused of illegally immigrating to Cambodia and working with
Khmer Kampuchea Krom to organize riots and demonstrations
against the GVN as well as conspiring to incite riots by falsely
accusing the GVN and Royal Cambodian Government (RCG) of
repressing Khmers. Poloff contacted An Giang officials to
inquire about Sakhorn's legal status, but they declined to
provide any further information. Sakhorn's reappearance came
after a month during which ConGen and Embassy Phnom Penh had
been attempting to ascertain his whereabouts.

2. (SBU) On August 1, Poloff paid a courtesy call on Monk Chau
Ty, a senior Khmer Krom monk in An Giang and a representative of
the GVN-recognized Vietnam Buddhist Sanga (VBS), and inquired
about Sakhorn. Chau Ty claimed he had only become aware of
Sakhorn's situation in early July, via Cambodian radio reports
which stated that Sakhorn had been defrocked for violating
Buddhist law by having women in his room. When asked if he knew
Sakhorn's current whereabouts, Chau Ty replied that the radio
reports had declared him "lost" and that no one knew his
location. In contrast to reports from other Khmer Krom monks in
An Giang, Chau Ty denied ever having received instructions from
the police to refuse aid to Sakhorn should he arrive at their
doors (Ref A).

3. (SBU) On July 3, Monk Chau Pina of An Giang Province had
provided information to ConGen regarding Sakhorn's background
and prior travel to Vietnam. Since that time, however, he has
become uncomfortable sharing information with the USG after
receiving warnings from his family regarding potential
harassment from local officials. (Comment: Chau Pina's
newfound reticence may also stem from a negative response we
received from the provincial External Relations Office (ERO)
after Poloff asked ERO to arrange a meeting with him; ERO
instead suggested a visit with Monk Chau Ty. Chau Ty's
impartiality is questionable, since he is known to have a close
relationship with the GVN and admitted to being present during a
meeting that resulted in the defrocking of five Khmer Krom monks
convicted of organizing political protests in Soc Trang province
in May (Ref B). End comment.)

4. (SBU) While the media reported that Sakhorn had been
"prosecuted", he has in fact been detained by authorities while
they investigate the charges brought against him. Given that
Sakhorn has yet to be officially indicted, it could take over a
year for him to come to trial. In addition, the accusations of
illegal entry into Vietnam do little to clarify the issue of
Sakhorn's Vietnamese/Cambodian nationality. Post understands
that Khmer Kampuchea Krom are considered Cambodian citizens
while in Cambodia; for this reason, some observers recognize the
possibility of dual citizenship (Ref C).

5. (SBU) Comment: Given that Sakhorn is perceived to be a
dissident, the allegations that he was forcibly removed from
Cambodia into Vietnam, with possible coordination between RCG
and GVN authorities, are troubling. ConGen will continue to
monitor the situation as new developments occur. End Comment.

6. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi and Embassy
Phnom Penh.

FAIRFAX

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