Two Khmer Krom monks were defrocked and detained on Saturday after a police search of their Por Sen Chey district pagoda uncovered women’s underwear, weapons and condoms, but allegations emerged yesterday that the pair had been set up.
District Governor Hem Darith said his officials searched Choam Chao commune’s Ang Taminh Pagoda – or Kork Chambork as it is better known – after receiving reports that 28-year-old Dav Tep and 30-year-old Chea Vanda had threatened a man staying there.
“According to the reports … both of the monks threatened to kill him by using a sword or knife, and during the inspection we found a number of prohibited items,” he said.
Items listed in the police report include a sword, a knife, a wooden stick, three mobile phones, a lottery ticket, women’s underwear, condoms and a substance police believed to be narcotics.
However, the man at the receiving end of the alleged threats, who requested anonymity, said he had been “forced by police officials to sign the complaint”.
“I thought that it was just a row, but after I realised that both monks were defrocked and detained, I asked to withdraw the complaint, but the authorities said that it was forwarded to the court already,” he added.
Outside Kakab Commune Hall where the men were being held, around 80 monks, students and activists gathered yesterday to call for the suspects’ release.
Thach Hasamnang, chief of Phnom Penh’s Samaki Rainsy Pagoda, said the pair had been framed because of their active involvement in protests against Vietnam.
“It is their [the authorities’] plan – the search was conducted without a clear warrant and the two monks were not there during the operation.
The search was done silently,” he said. “And with regards to the complaint, the man staying at the pagoda had not wanted to file the lawsuit and he also asked to drop the lawsuit, but the authorities did not agree.”
Yem Saran, the Por Sen Chey district police chief, declined to comment yesterday, while Kakab commune police chief San Pet could not be reached.
Nay Vanda, deputy head of human rights monitoring and legal aid at local rights group Adhoc, said officials should have conducted the search in front of the two monks to “ensure transparency”.
“During the search, both monks were outside asking for food.
Therefore, it’s hard for them to prove their innocence and that someone else planted the evidence in their room”.