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Rallying monk forced to swear off protests

A monk walks into Wat Botum pagoda , where a fellow monk was forced to thumbprint a document agreeing that he would no longer attend political events
A monk walks into Wat Botum pagoda, where a fellow monk was forced to thumbprint a document agreeing that he would no longer attend political events. VIREAK MAI

Rallying monk forced to swear off protests

A young monk at Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum was allowed to return yesterday morning after he was expelled Monday evening for attending an opposition party rally at Freedom Park, the monk said.

According to a Cambodia National Rescue Party statement released yesterday, Phnom Penh’s chief monk and first deputy abbot at the pagoda, Khem Sorn, ordered that Voeung Samnang be ejected, saying his actions were against the laws of the pagoda.

Samnang, 28, confirmed to the Post that he was kicked out after returning from the rally with five other monks.

All were questioned by senior monks at Wat Botum but only Samnang, a university student, was dismissed, he said.

In order to be allowed back in yesterday, Samnang was made to thumbprint a contract promising that he would not be involved in any further political activities or rallies, he said.

“I did not even shout [at the rally]. I just stood there with my arms crossed and listened to the speeches. But still I was punished. I have no explanation for this,” he said.

Despite the promise, said Samnang, he would not hesitate to join any mass demonstrations that might be held in the future.

“The letter said if I joined any rally in the future, no pagoda in Phnom Penh would welcome me, but I still have hope, because Cambodian people are Buddhists and they have tolerance. So if I do any activity for them and the nation, I am not afraid.”

The CNRP statement yesterday called the monk’s brief dismissal violations of “the law, Buddhist principles and the rights of citizens participating in political activity.”

Post reporters who visited Wat Botum yesterday were told Sorn and senior monks were “busy in a meeting”.

Long Sophea, head of the pagoda house where Samnang lives, said the case was “already settled”.

Am Sam Ath, monitoring supervisor at rights group Licadho, said Samnang had come to his office requesting an intervention that turned out not to be needed when he was allowed to return to Wat Botum.

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