Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mooted mosque road marked

Mooted mosque road marked

Phnom Penh municipal council authorities measure land for a proposed new road inside the compound of the Boeung Kak mosque yesterday. The road has caused a rift in the Muslim community, dividing those who want to keep the land for quiet prayer and those who see the road a facilitator of business opportunities_19_12_2016_PHA LINA
Phnom Penh municipal council authorities measure land for a proposed new road inside the compound of the Boeung Kak mosque yesterday. The road has caused a rift in the Muslim community, dividing those who want to keep the land for quiet prayer and those who see the road a facilitator of business opportunities. Pha Lina

Mooted mosque road marked

Officials from the Phnom Penh municipal government yesterday mapped out a controversial road to be built across land inside a Boeung Kak mosque compound, which would see the destruction of the mosque’s intricate entrance gates.

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng instructed people to “protest later” as government officials used red string and spray paint to mark the road’s path, which will cut diagonally across the mosque land and through the main gate, a municipal map shows.

Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong had promised to “consult” with the Cham Muslim community back in September, but his hints then that the road was a foregone conclusion were reiterated yesterday as workers took hoes to the earth and dumped sand, cement and gravel at the Al-Serkal mosque site.

The road has been a source in May, causing a rift in the Muslim community between those who want the space kept sacred and quiet for prayer, and those who see business and connectivity opportunities.

“For protesters, you can protest later. Don’t talk too much,” deputy governor Sreng said yesterday, cutting off Harun Yusos, who identified himself as a member of the mosque community who was opposed – but ultimately resigned – to the road’s construction.

Highlighting the “conflict in Muslim community”, Sreng reiterated yesterday’s events were just to “measure” the proposed roads and that further discussions would take place in future. “I don’t come to seize the property of Muslims. We come to make Muslims have a better reputation. People will know this mosque because of the road,” he said.

Plans show the road would be 20 metres wide, with 2 extra metres on either side. The 2,000 square metres of land that will be taken up by the road will be returned in the form of additions to the two back corners of the compound; additionally, some land will be taken from the Boeung Kak community and given to the mosque, and vice versa.

Ministry of Social Affairs secretary of state and Cham community leader Ahmad Yahya has long been a vocal opponent of the project and was found guilty in August of defamation against his counterpart in the Labour Ministry, Othsman Hassan, for alleging he had business interests in the road.

Cham community leader Ahmad Yahya stands outside a mosque in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak district yesterday.
Cham community leader Ahmad Yahya stands outside a mosque in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak district yesterday. Yahya described a planned road, which will be built on land belonging to the mosque, as “a huge mistake”. Pha Lina

Yahya yesterday described the plan as “a huge mistake” and pleaded for the authorities to curve the road along the mosque compound’s boundary fence, not to cut through their land to the gate.

“The people don’t want the cars to disturb prayer, so it is not right to do this,” he said.

“They have guns, they have police, they have military, they can do [what they want] and they will win. This belongs to the people. We have to get agreement from the people,” he said.

If the Phnom Penh governor could not resolve the conflict, he should resign, Yahya added.

Sarin Vanna, chief of Phnom Penh land management department, said building the road along the fence was difficult for traffic and would also disrupt a proposed sewerage and drainage system plan.

“The road would be important for public interest,” he said.

“This land will be compensated with the land at the back of the mosque. We don’t have any other changes. [The Muslim community] requested that the road be at least 50 metres from the mosque; I put it 50 metres [away] as requested.”

Sith Ybrahim, a Cham Muslim and an adviser to the government of Cambodia, said he and others were upset by the proposal, and that people would be equally incensed if a noisy investment project was constructed in close proximity to a Buddhist pagoda.

“Lots of people are very, very angry,” he said. Yahya said the community would consider taking legal action when they met for prayer this Friday.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Schools drawn into Manet degree row

    Prime Minister Hun Sen stepped into the Hun Manet-Sam Rainsy war of words over the validity of Manet’s degree from the US Military Academy at West Point, set off by Rainsy’s claims that Manet had received a “second-class degree” or “honorary degree”. Hun

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished