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Protesting monk may be disrobed

Monk Sok Dyna (centre) sits on the stage at Freedom Park before attempting to set himself on fire during a CNRP demonstration
Monk Sok Dyna (centre) sits on the stage at Freedom Park before attempting to set himself on fire during a CNRP demonstration in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. HONG MENEA

Protesting monk may be disrobed

On the final day of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s three-day demonstration, Venerable Sok Dyna attempted to douse himself with petrol in front of 20,000 people, symbolically sacrificing himself for the sake of a better future for the Khmer people, he said.

“If the CNRP can’t help find justice, I will burn myself.… On the first day of the demonstrations, there were clashes on the Kbal Thnal sky bridge. I watched people struggle for justice and get killed. I am angry over the killings of Chut Wutty, Venerable [Sam] Bunthoeun, Chea Vichea and so on,” Dyna told the Post yesterday.

“Burning myself would have been a small hurt for a greater justice for the next Khmer generation.”

During the protest, Dyna launched into a diatribe over Cambodia’s need for justice, touching upon a variety of issues before pulling a bottle of petrol from his robes. Before he could douse himself, those near him quickly wrestled his hand away and pulled him off stage, where he was quickly taken away in a car.

Following a request from the CNRP to remain silent about his whereabouts as they arranged for his safe transport, according to fellow monks, he would not speak directly with a reporter yesterday. Sitting in a room next door, Dyna recorded his answers in an iPad video, which was then played by his associates.

His mother, Chan In, 54, said yesterday that she was worried about his safety.

“I almost fainted when I got the news he tried to burn himself.… If I had known he had gone to Phnom Penh to join the demonstration, I would never have allowed it,” she said.

Takeo religious authorities planned to defrock Dyna upon his return to Bati district where he resides, said Ho Vann, a CNRP lawmaker.

“They wanted to defrock him because he attended the CNRP demonstration, and they accused him of creating chaos by [trying to self-]immolate. He’s not possessed, he just loves his nation too much,” he said.

Instead, however, Dyna was secreted away by an independent monk network headed by Venerable But Buntenh of Siem Reap’s Wat Damnak.

Buntenh said yesterday that Dyna had been ordained just three months ago, but stressed that his dedication to the cloth was genuine.

“He is not a fake monk. He became a monk with the authorities’ recognition,” he said.

While Buntenh commended Dyna’s commitment to justice, he urged him to find a more peaceful means of expression – pointing to the lack of progress in Tibet’s independence movement in spite of more than 100 self-immolations.

Though monks in Cambodia have been ordered to avoid the opposition rallies by the religion’s top leaders, the past few weeks have seen a flurry of political activity among the clergy.

“This is the first time in Cambodia that a monk has tried to self-immolate, [but] some of the less-established monks certainly seem far more socially engaged during this period of political tension,” independent political analyst Lao Mong Hay said.