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Human rights trek for monks

Human rights trek for monks

Monks will spend days marching hundreds of kilometres to Phnom Penh from five provinces in the lead-up to Human Rights Day on December 10, the head of a dissident monk group said yesterday.

Departing in groups of 20 from Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Pursat and Svay Rieng provinces on December 1, the monks will walk approximately 20 kilometres a day, Venerable But Buntenh of the Independent Monk Network said.

“We will be meeting up in front of the National Assembly on the 10th in the morning.… At every stop we will hold a forum to interact with local people.… We are looking into the relationship between Buddhist principles and the respect of human rights,” he said.

The monks will present a petition calling for better rights protections at the parliament, Buntenh continued, and will ask representatives from both political parties to accept it.

“We are sending this message to the government, because this government is new. We do not want to see the same practices as before. We want to see changes from the human rights perspective.”

Earlier this month, members of Buntenh’s group walked 30 kilometres through the jungles of Koh Kong province to reach a controversial proposed dam site in the Areng Valley.

Social researcher Kem Ley said despite the recent uptick in monks openly opposing the government, many more would join if they could. “Not all monks belong to the CPP but they just follow under the pressure [from superiors],” he said.

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