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Buddhist community hall destroyed and four Khmer Krom monks arrested in continued crackdown

3 Apr 2024

Vietnamese authorities have destroyed a community hall belonging to the Khmer-Krom Theravada community and arrested, defrocked and charged four more Khmer Krom monks, in what appears to be the latest in a series of crackdowns on the Theravada Buddhist community.

On 1 April, a place of worship located in Tong Hung, Loan My village, Tam Binh district, Vinh Long province, used by the Khmer-Krom Theravada Buddhist community, was destroyed by Vietnamese authorities. The hall also serves as an educational centre, teaching Khmer-Krom language classes to local children and hosting community events.

Representatives of the community were initially visited by government officials on 12 October 2022, who informed them that the building would be demolished as it was built illegally. The government officials left after locals complained that their rights were being impinged and that the hall served many purposes in the rural community, not just religious uses.

On the morning of 1 April 2024, the Vietnamese authorities surrounded and blocked the road used to enter the place of worship. The building was then destroyed by government officials using a bulldozer.

This follows the arrests of four Khmer Krom monks on 28 March at the Dai Tho Pagoda in Southern Vietnam’s Vinh Long Province. Mr Duong Khai, Mr Thach Qui Lay, Mr Kim Sa Ruong, Mr Thach Chop were arrested, defrocked and charged with ‘abusing democratic freedoms’ under Article 331 of the Vietnamese Criminal Code.

The four monks’ arrests were preceded by the arrest of Abbot Thach Chanh Da Ra on 26 March, who was also defrocked and charged under Article 331. On 21 March two Khmer Khrom activists were charged and jailed under Article 331 after they organised trainings on the rights of indigenous people under international law.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: ‘The ongoing targeted attacks against the Khmer Krom community proves, without doubt, that the government of Vietnam believes the rules do not apply to them. As members of the UN Human Rights Council, they should be upholding the highest international human rights standards. Instead, on a daily basis, they arrest and detain dissenting minority voices and we are concerned by targeted attacks against places of worship including the recent demolition of an important Khmer Krom community hall.  The ongoing use of Article 331 to quash dissenting voices is also deeply alarming and we urge the international community to hold Vietnam to account for the systematic oppression and silencing of religious or belief minorities. Such impunity must not be allowed to continue. We urge the Vietnamese authorities to release, without condition, all those imprisoned or arbitrarily detained for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief.’

Notes to Editors:

        1. Video footage of the Khmer-Krom Theravada Buddhist Community hall being destroyed on 1 April in Tonh Hung can be viewed here.

        2. In CSW’s press release issued on 28 March and titled ‘Khmer-Krom Buddhist monk arrested, charged and removed from office in Southern Vietnam’, we wrote that approximately 1.3 million Khmer-Krom live in a part of southwest Vietnam that was once part of Cambodia. 1.3 million is the figure published by the Vietnamese government. However, some sources close to CSW believe there is significant under reporting by the government, and that the true figure could be closer to 5 million. However, there has been no qualitative population study to date.



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