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Agreement forced, Loun Savath says

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The Venerable Loun Savath was detained by police, monks and unidentified plain-clothed men on Thursday in the capital after he took photos of protesting Boeung Kak lake villagers. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Activist monk Loun Savath yesterday decried an “agreement” he thumbprinted in the presence of Supreme Patriarch Nun Nget on Thursday, claiming he was forced to comply under duress.

Speaking from a safe place yesterday, the “multimedia monk” said a group, including the municipal chief monk and the minister of Cults and Religions, had threatened to defrock him if he did not agree to stay away from all protests.

“Any forced agreement is not an agreement, because it is against my will,” Loun Savath said, adding he wanted the authorities to give such instructions through transparent legal proceedings.

Loun Savath was violently forced into a car outside Phnom Penh municipal court on Thursday morning and detained at Wat Botum for about 10 hours, where many senior monks met with him, including the Supreme Patriarch.

A video of his violent abduction has received almost 25,000 views on YouTube since Thursday.

Police and ministry officials barricaded Wat Botum and blocked entry for anyone who did not produce a pagoda residence card.

The human rights award winner said while he was detained, he was surrounded by authorities and threatened with being defrocked unless he thumbprinted the agreement.

The handwritten agreement, obtained by the Post yesterday, was attached to a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana from Phnom Penh municipal court signed by judge Duch Kim Sorn, who had ordered an investigation into Loun Savath’s activities on charges of incitement.

However, Loun Savath said despite the potential legal action, he would never leave Cambodia or leave its problems behind.

“I cannot open my eyes or ears without hearing the call for justice from the people,” he said. “If there are calls, I will continue to join in monitoring people’s activity and social activity.”

Yesterday, Loun Savath uploaded his own video of his violent detention outside the municipal court.

Wearing a special pair of glasses fitted with a video recorder, the monk filmed his entire arrest, including his transport to Wat Botum.

A voice, outside of his view is recorded as saying: “Oh Venerable, you make it so difficult. If you make it easy, it’s finished. Let others do politics.”

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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