Two monks were charged in court yesterday for allegedly taking flags and bamboo poles on Wednesday to the Samaki Rainsy pagoda, where a group of land-eviction protesters was staying.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge Nou Veasna said the two monks, Khith Vannak, 20, and Sang Kosal, 19, were charged under article 499 of the criminal code for alleged “participation in criminal association”.
“I am still working on their case,” Veasna said, declining to comment further.
The two monks were arrested outside the pagoda on Wednesday.
Charges against them follow a crackdown in the capital this week that has resulted in 10 activists and a monk being arrested and sentenced to one year in prison. Two opposition officials have also been arrested.
Speaking to reporters after their hearing, the two vigorously denied any wrongdoing.
“I did not break any law”, Vannak said. “I just carried the bamboo poles with the national and religious flags to Samaki Rainsy pagoda.”
Vannak complained about the manner in which police officers defrocked him at the station.
“Their activities were very bad, a violation of rights. They have defrocked me without reason. But I will be a monk again when I am released.”
Kosal said his arrest was unjust, and asked to be released.
The two men are Khmer Krom monks from Stung Meanchey pagoda in the capital’s Meanchey district.
Monks at Samaki Rainsy told the Post on Wednesday that the two monks had been involved in Kampuchea Krom protests in the capital last month. Vietnamese flags were burned during the heated demonstrations.
The week of arrests began on Monday when seven female Boeung Kak activists were taken in for using a bed to block traffic on Monivong Boulevard. The activists were protesting against flooding around their homes – something they blame on officials responsible for filling in Boeung Kak lake.
A judge took barely three hours to try and convict the women under article 78 of the traffic law on Tuesday and jailed them each for one year.
Four people – three land activists and one monk – were arrested outside the court on Tuesday as the seven women were questioned. With similar swiftness, a judge convicted them of inciting violence against public authority and jailed them, also for one year. The cases have drawn strong criticism from rights groups.