Activitist monk Soeun Hay has gone into self-imposed exile out of fears for his safety following the arrest earlier this week of two other Kampuchea Krom monks living at the Ang Taminh Pagoda.
Hay has been a regular feature at fiery protests over alleged human rights abuses and has fronted calls for Vietnam to recognise the history of ethnic Khmer people living in the south of Cambodia’s powerful neighbour.
He was previously arrested on November 11 by Prampi Makara district security forces as he was travelling to a demonstration calling for the release of seven land activists from Boeung Kak lake.
“I was informed in advance of plans to arrest me, so when they came to get me, they could not find me and just arrested two of my apprentices,” he said, referring to the arrests of Dav Tep, 28, and Chea Vanda, 30, on Saturday.
Police said the two monks were found with a number of contraband items, including lacy knickers, condoms and drugs.
However, their supporters claimed that the evidence was planted and that the case was politically motivated.
“They wanted to arrest me over my criticism of the border dispute with Vietnam,” Hay said, speaking from an undisclosed location.
He added that the source who had tipped him off said police were planning to plant knives, wooden sticks and drugs on him.
“I will come back, as I do not want to leave my homeland,” he said. “If I didn’t leave, they would send me to jail and I couldn’t resist.”
“I was already jailed [last year for five months] for protesting for human rights, but the Cambodian authorities continue to follow and abuse me.”
After the rainy season, he said he will return to face whatever charges are laid against him.
“I have already sacrificed a normal life for the nation, but Hun Sen’s government does not support patriots, preferring to threaten to kill us and send us to jail,” he said.
Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman, and Kirt Chantharith, National Police spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for local rights monitor Licadho, said that there were still many doubts over the arrests of the two monks, including the closed-door searches of the pagoda.
“It looks like they wanted [to arrest] Soeun Hay.
But wherever he has gone, they will probably be able to catch up with him and arrest him as previous cases have shown.”