Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued a warrant for the arrest of a prominent activist and former monk currently living in self-imposed exile who it says has been found guilty of forging public documents and wearing monks’ robes after being defrocked.
The warrant, which was signed by presiding judge Khi Chher on November 3, calls on authorities to find Soeun Hay, who it says has been sentenced in absentia to two years in prison and fined 6 million riel (about $1,500) for forging documents declaring himself to be a monk and illegally wearing the religious robes.
Chher yesterday refused to elaborate on the charges or tell the Post when Hay was found guilty. He said only that the verdict was delivered “in accordance with [court] procedures and evidence”.
Hay has been a regular feature at protests in the capital, including those calling for Vietnam to recognise the history of the Kampuchea Krom provinces.
In November 2014, he was arrested by district security forces while travelling to a demonstration calling for the release of seven land activists from Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak community.
He was later defrocked and sentenced to one year behind bars, but released by a Royal Pardon in April.
In August, Hay went into hiding after two other Kampuchea Krom monks living at the Ang Taminh pagoda were arrested for allegedly being in possession of a number of contraband items.
“I was informed in advance of plans to arrest me, so when they came to get me, they could not find me and just arrested two of my apprentices,” he told the Post at the time.
Hay could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with local rights group Licadho, said the latest verdict was likely to have been prompted by Hay’s activism.
“I think this arrest warrant was issued because Venerable Soeun Hay was too active in protests involving the Khmer Krom territory and protests for land-conflict victims,” he said.
Sam Ath called on the court to release the evidence that they have against Hay to “prove it is fair”.