Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Church asked to be apolitical

Church asked to be apolitical

Ethnic minority villagers hold a meeting with human rights organisation ADHOC in Ratanakkiri province last year
Ethnic minority villagers hold a meeting with human rights organisation ADHOC in Ratanakkiri province last year. Photo Supplied

Church asked to be apolitical

A Christian leader in Ratanakkiri’s Bakeo district has accused a district Ministry of Cults and Religion official of making members of his congregation thumbprint a contract forbidding them to proselytise or associate with any political parties before the election.

Community leader Rochom Nath, 32, said yesterday that the chief of the district cults and religion office, Moeng Ieng, convened more than 20 members of his 240-strong Christian enclave in Seung commune’s Yasom village on Wednesday to endorse the letter.

“The letter told us not to promote the Christian religion, and said we’re not allowed to have a connection with political parties, because [Ieng] is a member of the [Cambodian People’s Party],” Nath said, adding that Ieng had threatened to prevent Christians from gathering at the church where they have worshipped for more than four years if they didn’t thumbprint the document.

In the lead-up to the elections, he said, both CPP and Cambodia National Rescue Party campaigners had swung by to try to sway the flock.

“I have promoted this religion in Ratanakkiri province since 2007, and this is the first time that I was coerced to stop, so I was afraid of being suspended, and gave my thumbprint like the others did,” he added.

Ieng, however, maintained that the letter did “not ban them from promoting whatsoever”. It was simply an annually required collection of biographical information about church leaders and dissemination of directives from the Ministry of Cults and Religion, he said.

But the letter did urge Christians to heed their own teachings and not involve themselves with politics, he added.

According to Ieng, the congregation never asked permission to build its gathering place.

Nath, on the other hand, maintained that he had all the requisite ministry documents.

Yem Yodavan, director of the Ministry of Cult and Religion’s religious resolutions department, said that under the law, people “have right to follow any religion they like, and the religion needs to inform and ask permission before [building] or promoting itself.”


  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Rainsy and Sokha ‘would already be dead’: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday appeared to suggest he would have assassinated opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha had he known they were promising to “organise a new government” in the aftermath of the disputed 2013 national elections. In a clip from his speech

  • Massive ceremony at Angkor Wat will show ‘Cambodia not in anarchy’: PM

    Government officials, thousands of monks and Prime Minister Hun Sen himself will hold a massive prayer ceremony at Angkor Wat in early December to highlight the Kingdom’s continuing “peace, independence and political stability”, a spectacle observers said was designed to disguise the deterioration of

  • PM tells workers CNRP is to blame for any sanctions

    In a speech to workers yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen pinned the blame for any damage inflicted on Cambodia’s garment industry by potential economic sanctions squarely on the opposition party. “You must remember clearly that if the purchase orders are reduced, it is all