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Loun Sovath documents the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Boeung Kak Lake eviction
Loun Sovath documents the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Boeung Kak Lake eviction, where puppets representing government officials were burned. Vireak Mai

Monk, KPPM charged with treason

Activist monk Loun Sovath and members of Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), which has been branded a terrorist group by Prime Minister Hun Sen, have been summonsed to stand trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court later this month on charges of treason and obstructing electoral procedures, attorney Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday.

The treason hearing had been rescheduled from its original September 18 date.

KPPM leader Cambodian-American Sourn Serey Ratha, two KPPM members and a civilian are accused of allegedly distributing T-shirts with slogans urging Cambodians not to vote and handing out yellow roses with leaflets that allegedly incited violence around last year’s national elections, Sam Oeun said.

Sovath, however, was uncertain yesterday as to why he is being tried.

“I’m not guilty of anything that they’re accusing me of,” Sovath said. “I only use meditation, compassion and nonviolence … and I think this is just the court of Cambodia not being neutral.”

Sovath added that appearing alongside KPPM members, with whom he has no affiliation, was damaging to his name.

“Whatever I do is my independent activity, and they are violating my name, because I have nothing to do with KPPM or any political group,” he said.

The human rights advocate met Serey Ratha once in the US in 2011 and says he didn’t agree with the KPPM leader’s ideologies.

According to Sam Oeun, this is the first time a Buddhist monk has been summonsed to a court trial in Cambodia.

“In Buddhist belief, only Buddhist monks can try other monks, unless he’s defrocked before he appears in court,” he said.

But Sovath said he will appear in court despite the threat of being defrocked.

Sovath will be represented by lawyers from NGOs Licadho and CLEC.

Municipal court prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth could not be reached for comment.

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