Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Protesters demand the release of fellow monk

Protesters demand the release of fellow monk

Horn Sophanny, escorted by police officials to Battambang provincial court, where he was charged for illegal possesion of a gun.
Horn Sophanny, escorted by police officials to Battambang provincial court, where he was charged for illegal possesion of a gun. Photo supplied

Protesters demand the release of fellow monk

About 50 monks gathered in front of the Battambang Provincial Court yesterday to demand the release of fellow monk Horn Sophanny, claiming the monk was falsely accused of illegal possession of a weapon and arrested on Wednesday due to his political activism.

Sophanny, 24, was arrested after an image of him posing with a gun in his robes was posted to Facebook, though But Buntenh, a dissident monk who heads the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, said the gun was a fake and Sophanny committed no crime.

“His mistake was playing with a plastic gun, and it is inappropriate to punish him by defrocking and detaining him like this,” he said. “The monk is young and lacking in knowledge and deserves the chance to correct his attitude in accordance with Buddhism’s principles.”

In April, Sophanny posted an image of himself posing with the gun. It was accompanied by text criticising the government and a statement that appeared to claim the gun was real and intended to be used in case recent government warnings of a civil war turn out true.

“Buy a gun for protection, just in case Sun Ou Sen declares war during the 2018 election,” he wrote, in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has repeatedly threatened to “eliminate” his opponents and warned civil war will break out if he loses power.

Monk But Buntenh (centre) protests for his fellow monk Sophanny’s release with a toy weapon yesterday outside Battambang Provincial Court.
Monk But Buntenh (centre) protests for his fellow monk Sophanny’s release with a toy weapon yesterday outside Battambang Provincial Court. Facebook

Battambang Provincial Court spokesman Seng Phanit confirmed that Sophanny was yesterday sent to prison to await a trial.

“The former monk was charged with two different cases – possessing a weapon illegally . . . and incitement to commit a crime,” Phanit said.

However, Buntenh said he believed the arrest was caused by Sophanny’s activism and work monitoring the June 4 commune elections. Another prominent activist monk, Luon Sovath, also said he believed the arrest was meant to scare monks away from politics.

“They arrest one monk so that they don’t have to arrest thousands,” Sovath said, adding he thought it was clear the gun in the image was a fake and that Sophanny should have been punished only in his pagoda.

Sovath said the news of the arrest spread fast and could backfire for those trying to silence monks as election nears. “This is not justice,” he said. “The monks that stand up for social justice must vote in 2018.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Purging Sihanoukville’s past with a new masterplan

    Amid illicit activities, haphazard development and abandoned projects, the coastal city of Sihanouk province needs a reset to move forward. A new masterplan might be the answer to shake off its seemingly mucky image to become the Shenzhen of the south Gun toting, shootouts, police

  • Chinese may be first in tourism revival: PM

    Cambodia's tourism industry is gearing up to roll out the red carpet for Chinese travellers after Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 indicated that the Kingdom could soon throw open its doors to international holidaymakers vaccinated against Covid-19 – starting with guests from China. Cambodia Chinese

  • Four-pillar approach in reopening of tourism: PM

    Cambodia is drawing up a four-strategy approach to promptly restore domestic and international tourism activity and put the industry on a transition pathway to a sustainable and inclusive model that is resistant to future crises, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The prime minister made

  • Airline says ready for green light to reopen international tourism

    Sky Angkor Airline Co Ltd on September 21 said it is ready to transport South Korean and Chinese tourists to the Kingdom once the Cambodian government makes good on plans to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers. The Siem Reap-based airline made the remark during a

  • Tourism concerns laid bare

    To ensure the success of plans to reopen the tourism market for international visitors, Cambodia must pay utmost attention to two primary determinants – the ongoing paradigm shift in domestic tourism services towards the ‘new normal’, and the factors influencing choices of destinations among foreign holidaymakers.

  • Cambodian bride ‘badly treated, held captive’ by Chinese man seeks help

    A Cambodian woman who travelled to China to marry a Chinese man there was “badly treated” by her husband’s family and then had to be rescued and will be returned to Cambodia to ensure her safety. The rescue operation came about after the 25-year-old