The president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Friendship Association, located in the Samakiraingsey pagoda in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, said yesterday he would defy attempts by pagoda authorities to remove the group until a suitable location for the group was found.
Thach Sang said that committee representatives of the pagoda had gathered last month to dismantle the group’s office and remove a banner from the temple but were stopped by supporters of the association.
“The association will not move, but we will not be against the removal of our office from the pagoda by the pagoda committee and the government if they have a new location for our association,” he said.
He added that the association violates no legal codes and serves to offer assistance to ethnic Khmer Krom communities who face difficulties living in Cambodia.
Thoun Saren, a Samakiraingsey pagoda committee representative and acting head of the pagoda, announced on March 4 that the association, along with the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Monk’s Association and the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association, both of which also operate out of the pagoda, would be forced to vacate the temple within 10 days.
Thach Sang said yesterday that the three groups had the right to protect and maintain their offices in the pagoda, in order to facilitate the living of Khmer Krom people facing hardships in the country, adding that the associations had been housed in the pagoda for many years.
Thoun Saren said the committee was seeking the removal of the associations from the pagoda because their presence prevented the temple from being fully recognised by Cambodian law as other Buddhist pagodas are in the country.
However, Phorn Davy, director of the Ministry of Cults and Religions, said the pagoda has not been legally recognised by the ministry because of an ongoing land -title dispute with a local landowner.
He said as long as the dispute remains unsolved, the pagoda cannot apply for recognition from the government.
“We cannot accept the request [for recognition] if the location of the pagoda has no land title accepted by the land authority. This is the law,” Phorn Davy said.
Thoun Saren said that he would review the pagoda’s regulations and demand contracts from the associations before coming to a decision about making any compensation to the groups after their removal.
“This problem we can negotiate,” he said.