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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Monks ‘face defrocking’ after protesters pour in

Monks ‘face defrocking’ after protesters pour in

Monks ‘face defrocking’ after protesters pour in

Two monks who invited scores of provincial land-rights protesters into their pagoda in the capital have been threatened with defrocking, the pagoda’s chief monk said yesterday.

Meas Sokhorn alleged that Veng Seng, deputy chief monk in Russey Keo’s Chroy Changva commune, and another official had called him to a meeting to tell him that two monks living at his pagoda, Manh Sokreal and Nob Vanny, would be defrocked.

“The authorities, when the Buddhist [holiday] period ends, they will defrock the two monks,” he said.

In the past two weeks, land protesters have poured into the capital, seeking government intervention in their disputes.

A letter signed by Seng and dated August 17 calls for pagodas across Russey Keo district to tell any people staying there to return to their homes to allow preparations for this month’s Pchum Ben festival to take place, as per Buddhist traditions.

But Sokhorn told the Post that he had no plans to turn anyone away from the pagoda.

“The authorities want the people to leave the pagoda before Pchum Ben. How can I do that? The pagoda is a place that people depend on when they are suffering,” he said. “If I do not allow them to stay, I am not a monk.”

Sokhorn added that he was not acting politically, but in the name of Buddhism.

“My students and I do not participate in politics. They already have politicians, and what I am doing is following the Buddha’s advice,” he said.

Neither Seng nor the two monks could be reached for comment yesterday.

The case is the latest in which action has allegedly been taken against monks for their political activities.

Last month, armed police raided the Wat Neak Vorn pagoda in Tuol Kork district after some of its monks attended an opposition demonstration that descended into violence at Freedom Park, while a week ago more than 100 monks turned out to protest at Sansam Kosal pagoda in Meanchey district after a Khmer Krom monk who took part in recent protests outside the Vietnamese Embassy was called to a meeting with district religious authorities.

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