An activist monk set to face trial today on widely disputed charges of incitement alongside a so-called “terrorist” leader vowed yesterday to use the hearing to preach to the judiciary.
Loun Sovath, an internationally celebrated human rights defender sometimes referred to as the “multimedia monk”, is charged with “incitement to commit a felony” for allegedly leading land-dispute victims to protest against the authorities.
Today’s case has been combined with one against Sourn Serey Ratha, leader of the dissident Khmer People Power Movement (KPPM), who faces additional charges of treason and obstructing electoral procedures.
In a statement released Sunday, 16 NGOs called for authorities to drop the charges against Sovath, adding that, “disconcertingly”, confusion in the court summons made it unclear whether Sovath, too, will be tried for treason and election interference.
They also said that the trial violates a judge’s orders in 2012 that Sovath’s case be separated from that of Serey Ratha.
“In our country, if they want to treat us badly, they will attach us to other people. I never even knew Sourn Serey Ratha,” Sovath said.
He added that he would preach sermons to court officials, urging the court to “adhere to virtue and integrity, and avoid ignorance”.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan hit out at calls for intervention, saying that NGOs should “be more civilised; they should help the government, not interfere” with the rule of law in the Kingdom.
In a statement yesterday, Cambodian-American Serey Ratha, who is currently in Thailand, also called on the court to drop the charges.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY