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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Border priest held for spying

Border priest held for spying

The chief priest of a pagoda in Preah Vihear province was arrested on charges of spying for Thailand after writing down the license plate of an RCAF vehicle that witnesses claim held a confiscated Buddhist statue.

Chuk Som, police chief of Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune, said today that Toeun Pheap, 33, was arrested after writing down plate numbers of RCAF tanks, personnel carriers and trucks that were stationed at the Svay Chrum pagoda.

Sao Yath, representative for villagers in Svay Chrum village, said that at his request, Toeun Pheap wrote down the number of the car that removed the Buddhist statue from the pagoda.

He said the provocation was related to the authority’s order to local villagers in early January to leave their houses.

Many villagers in Svay Chrum refused orders to leave their property to make way for tourist and commercial development projects led by Preah Vihear National Authority.

“It is just an accusation to put him in prison and force people to leave the village after we refused their deadline to vacate,” Sao Yath says.

“We do not serve Thailand. We wrote down a license plate to file a complaint, but the authority is using this to accuse us of wrongdoing and pressure us to comply with their orders,” Sao Yath says.

A police officer who refused to be identified said today that tanks, personnel carriers and military trucks have been parked in Svay Chrum pagoda for two days.

He said that officials from the province and military officers came with cars and trucks to remove the Buddhist statue from the pagoda.

Police chief of Preah Vihear province Mao Pov said the monk is being detained at the provincial police headquarters for questioning.

“He is suspected of engaging in abnormal activity at a military site,” Mao Pov said.

“We are asking him for more information about this.”

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