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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Calls for intervention over Institute

Monks march to the Royal Palace yesterday.
Monks march to the Royal Palace yesterday. Hong Menea

Calls for intervention over Institute

The Minister for Cults and Religion Min Khin has been asked to appear before a National Assembly commission to answer questions about the future of the Buddhist Institute and leasing arrangements with the NagaWorld casino next door.

Yem Ponhearith, CNRP member and head of the National Assembly’s religion commission, said yesterday that a letter was sent on Thursday asking Khin to attend a meeting at 2pm on October 9.

“We want to ask the Minister of Religion if the part of land being rented to NagaWorld has a proper legal contract,” Ponhearith said. “The government must be transparent and accountable in dealing with this property.”

Unholy construction

It was revealed last month that NagaCorp, the parent company of the casino, had told investors of plans to build a hotel without gaming operations, to be called Naga3, on the Buddhist Institute site.

The casino already surrounds the institute on all sides and an electrical substation has been built for it on a 30mx100m piece of institute land.

About 100 monks yesterday marched to the Royal Palace and National Assembly to submit petitions asking for intervention on the issue.

At the protest, But Buntenh, head of Independent Monks Network for Social Justice, said the monks wanted the future of the institute secured and also wanted information on NagaWorld’s use of the land.

“The of the Buddhist Institute’s fences and the leasing of state land to private company is illegal because the Buddhist Institute land is religious property that can’t be claimed by a private firm as their own,” he said.

Buntenh also warned of further, larger protests to come.

The Ministry of Cults and Religion’s spokesman Seng Somony could not be contacted yesterday.

However, a previous statement provided by the ministry denied that NagaWorld’s plans to build on the Buddhist Institute site would be allowed to go ahead.

“We are requesting [money from the] national budget to repair and renovate the Buddhist Institute and construct a four- or five-storey building on the site,” the statement said.

“The Ministry of Cults and Religion would like to reaffirm that its current and future policy is that the Buddhist Institute should be able to continue its work normally and not be given to investors or sold, leading to the loss of the Buddhist Institute.”

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