More than 300 monks and civilians yesterday took to the capital’s streets with a list of demands, including the resignation of Ministry of Cults and Religion chief Min Khin, prompted by the theft of artefacts from a stupa at Oudong Mountain earlier this month.
In the second protest led by the Independent Monks Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ) in as many weeks, the banner-wielding crowd delivered a petition to Phlok Phorn, secretary of state, who accepted it outside the offices of the Ministry of Cults and Religion.
The petition signed by monks from 10 provinces calls for the unconditional resignation of Khin within 14 days.
“Lately, [Khim] has paid no attention to the loss of Buddha relics, nor taken any precise action or asked the government to help bring the perpetrators to justice,” the petition states.
Since the relics, among them an urn said to contain the cremated ashes of the Buddha, were stolen on December 11, authorities have charged four security guards from the site along with a local villager
police said was drinking with them the night of the theft.
Venerable But Buntenh, leader of the IMSJ, said the organisation had a three-pronged plan but declined to reveal a specific timeline for fear of a potential police crackdown.
“First, we will protest outside the Ministry of Cults and Fine Arts, calling for the minister to cooperate in locating the [stolen] relics. Secondly, we will protest outside the Chinese Embassy, because of a Chinese company’s involvement in building the Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam [in Koh Kong]. Thirdly, we will hold a pilgrimage to Oudong to further publicise the loss of the relics.”
Khim Sorn, chief of Phnom Penh’s monks, said yesterday that the hunt for the stolen relics was ongoing, though not under the oversite of the nation’s clergy.
“We are not the managers [of the relics]. We must work with authorities to take care of them. Consequently, the government must try its best to find the relics, because they belong to all of us.”