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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Acidic ending to wat toilet dispute

Acidic ending to wat toilet dispute


In a bitter dispute over ownership of a toilet, eight Thomma-yuth monks and two laymen

were attacked by the acid-spraying President of the Sihanoukist Buddhist Association

at Phnom Penh's Wat Butom Vadei.

An aggrieved monk at left, Chan Sokha, and, at right, the confessed acid-sprayer, Sihanoukist Buddhist Assn. president Sou To

"Yes, I [sprayed acid]. I was not trying to kill them, just preventing them

from taking the toilet roof," said 65-year-old Sou To, the association's president,

on the February 6 attack.

The Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia's minority Thomma-yuth sect, the Venerable Bour

Kry, told the Post that the toilet belonged to Wat Butom Vadei, so the monks had

every right to remove it.

"That property does not belong to the association. It was a gift from disciples

of the Buddha to the monks of the pagoda," said Bour Kry.

Monks had constructed the toilet building in 1992, he said.

One victim, 23-year-old monk Chan Sokha, suffered only minor burns to his skin, but

his robe was destroyed by acid in the attack.

"I was tearing down the roof above the toilet when To sprayed acid on the monks

through a hole in his office wall. We were injured, but not seriously. However, our

robes were burned," said Sokha.

Sok Buntha, 21, a student who lives at the Wat, said he was helping the monks when

To attacked.

"[To] didn't say a word. He just started spraying us. I saw the nozzle of the

spray can sticking out from a hole in the wall so I grabbed it and said if he stopped

spraying, we would stop tearing down the roof."

Ven. Bour Kry said according to monastic rules monks have no right to complain to

police, but he urged the Government to help resolve this problem.

"Acid used as a weapon can kill people. Police must find justice for the monks.

They did not destroy someone else's property. The monks took only what belonged to

them," he said.

"What [To] did earns bad kharma. Buddhism is the state religion and the Government

has the responsibility to protect monks," said Ven. Bour Kry.

Though concerned about their kharma, To and his wife remain defiant.

"Yes we know it is bad kharma, and we are now scared for our kharma, but the

monks were destroying our property. If we did not use [acid] how could we protect

our property," said To.

He told the Post that he bought the acid one week before the attack because he normally

sprays a diluted acid solution on trees at his farm in Kampot to protect them against


For years now the toilet has been used by Buddhist Association staff. Their office

is located next to Bour Kry's office on the grounds of Wat Butom Vadei.

To's wife claims both the association office and the toilet belong to Cambodia's

majority Mohanikay sect, which controls a large section of Wat Butom Vadei.

After the attack To's wife reported the incident to the police. The police came to

the scene, collected evidence, and interviewed her husband

"The police said they will not charge me with a crime because I used [the acid]

only to protect myself," said To.



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