Cao Dai Protesters Remain in Police Custody

Twelve Vietnamese members of the Cao Dai religious sect ar­rested earlier this week remained in the custody of municipal police on Thursday with no sign that they would soon be released, de­ported or charged with a crime.

“We have no plan to deport them or send them to the courts,” said Chum Sokha, deputy chief of the municipality’s foreigner police department. “We are waiting for the decision from the high officials.”

Police arrested the six men and six women Tuesday as they marched down Mao Tse-tung Boul­evard in white religious robes towards a meeting of Asean lawmakers at the Hotel In­ter­Continental, where they hoped to deliver a petition calling on Viet­nam to let them worship freely. They confessed to entering the country illegally and held no passports, police said.

Vietnam has denied that the Cao Dai are oppressed and said it would not interfere with the Cambodian government’s handling of the case.

The four-page Cao Dai petition, ob­tained on Thursday, called on the UN and “any country that cares about human rights in Viet­nam” to help the Cao Dai, who, the petition stated, are restricted from traveling and worshipping freely.

In reference to Vietnamese au­thor­ities, the petition says, “Their mouths talk about freedom, but all the people’s rights have been violated.”

“Please save us and bring back freedom for the people who follow Cao Daism,” it adds.

The letter, written in Viet­nam­ese and signed by Minh Chau, lead­er of the 12 now in police de­ten­tion, also lauded Cambodia for its religious freedom.

A US report on religious freedom issued Thursday said Cam­bo­dia “generally respects” freedom of religion, while Vietnam “main­tained supervisory control” of recognized religions because it “fears that not only organized religion but any organized group outside its control or supervision may weaken its authority and in­flu­ence.”

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