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Laymen face expulsion over border post row

Laymen face expulsion over border post row

TWO Buddhist laymen who arranged a ceremony for opposition leader Sam Rainsy in Svay Rieng province late last month face expulsion from their pagoda after a controversy in which Sam Rainsy Party officials uprooted posts marking the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

Pov Pheap, second deputy chief of Chantrea district’s Samraong commune, said the two laymen – Chak Sovann and Mom Poy from Ang Romdenh pagoda – would both be removed from their posts on the pagoda’s layman commission and questioned by district religious officials over the organisation of the October 25 ceremony.

“The district office of religious affairs called them to meet and the meeting ordered the organisation of a new commission and to remove Chak Sovann and Mom Poy from the commission,” he said. During the October 25 ceremony organised to mark the Kathen festival, Sam Rainsy, along with villagers and other SRP lawmakers, uprooted six posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. The villagers had complained to him that the Vietnamese had illegally planted poles on their rice fields.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the officials behind the removal of the two men should face criminal charges.

Nget Dara, a Svay Rieng-based coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the move against the men was motivated by politics. “This removal is a case of political discrimination,” he said. “I wonder why they are acting like this – the pagoda is a place for Buddhist ceremonies.”

Sam Rainsy is also likely to face repercussions for his part in the ceremony. A statement released by the SRP this week said the government had filed a lawsuit against Sam Rainsy for the border stunt, following complaints from Vietnam that his actions threatened to disrupt the two countries’ joint border demarcation.

Chantrea district Governor Chea Yeang would not comment on the removal of the two laymen.

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