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Monk But Buntenh (centre) displays a toy gun during a protest for the release of fellow monk Horn Sophanny, who was arrested on weapons charges after allegedly posing for a photo with the fake rifle. Facebook
Monk But Buntenh (centre) displays a toy gun during a protest for the release of fellow monk Horn Sophanny, who was arrested on weapons charges after allegedly posing for a photo with the fake rifle. Facebook

Monks who protested arrest of fellow monk ‘under watch’

Activist monks in Battambang who protested the arrest last week of fellow monk Horn Sophanny are claiming they are under surveillance by plainclothes officials in a bid to intimidate them.

But Buntenh, the leader of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, said members of his group reported the harassment to him yesterday.

“Some monks are under watch by authorities. They are searching for those who joined in the protest,” Buntenh said.

Sophanny, a member of Buntenh’s group, was arrested last week for posting a picture of himself posing with what appeared to be a toy gun on Facebook alongside text criticising the government. Buntenh and others protested on Thursday, saying the gun was indeed a toy.

According to Buntenh, a woman who cooked for the protesters was questioned by authorities demanding that she identify the monks involved.

“It is not a good situation,” Buntenh said, claiming it was a form of intimidation.

Heng Chhaihong, Battambang provincial coordinator for human rights group Licadho, also said the observation would qualify as intimidation, adding it was well within the monks’ rights to protest peacefully.

Chhaihong added the plastic gun didn’t warrant the charge of illegal weapon possession.

Chet Vanny, Battambang provincial deputy police chief, said he did not know whether the monks were under watch and directed questions to the Ministry of Cults and Religion, which could not be reached yesterday.

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