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Monk Prom Thomarcheat (right), 42, participates in a tree ordination ceremony to protect community forests in Kampong Speu province
Monk Prom Thomarcheat (right), 42, participates in a tree ordination ceremony to protect community forests in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district earlier this year. LUKE DUGGLEBY

Threats after activism: monks

Two monks living a remote pagoda in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district said yesterday that a shot had been fired at their living quarters last Tuesday in what they suspected was a threat motivated by their conservation efforts and participation in an opposition rally.

Venerables Sam Kimsat, 63, and Prom Thomarcheat, 42 – who live at the Pakrithan Chamkachhouk Pagoda in the forest near Pou Meas village in Trapaing Chor commune – say they have worked for 10 years to protect a 300-hectare community forest there, despite threats from civilians and authorities alike.

According to Kimsat, those threats came to a head when a shot rang out outside of Thomarcheat’s room on Tuesday evening, soon after he had participated in the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s Freedom Park sit-in.

“It is intimidation triggered by my presence in the CNRP mass demonstration, and my community forest protection,” he said. “They want us to stop, [so they can] cut down the trees and share the lands.”

After hearing the shot, Kimsat added, he snuck out of his room and saw a man with an electric torch in black trousers standing outside his room, only to disappear into the forest about one minute later.

Thomarcheat, who did not attend the rally, said yesterday that the threat could have stemmed from an incident two weeks ago, in which he stopped a suspected logger and recorded his thumbprint before releasing him.

“I did not know the shooter, but ordinary people don’t have guns,” he said, adding that people unhappy with his conservation efforts had poisoned 17 of his peacocks so far this year. “If they want to cut my liver out, that is their call. I am not afraid of that.”

Police investigated, the pair said, but did not inform them of the results of the inquiry.

Oral district police chief Dos Sim said yesterday that his officers had looked into the case, but found nothing.

“We investigated with the authorities, and we did not see any evidence of shooting,” he said before hanging up.

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