Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Road OK’d by Cham leaders

Road OK’d by Cham leaders

Khuong Sreng, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, speaks outside the city’s Boeung Kak mosque yesterday.
Khuong Sreng, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, speaks outside the city’s Boeung Kak mosque yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Road OK’d by Cham leaders

About 500 Cham imams and Muslim leaders from across the country gathered at a Boeung Kak mosque yesterday and unanimously voted for a controversial road across the mosque compound to plough ahead – a display decried as a “set-up” by opponents.

A high-profile line-up of Cham leaders, including Grand Mufti Sos Kamry, Ministry of Labour Secretary of State Othsman Hassan and his counterpart at the Ministry of Cult and Religion Sos Mousine touted the benefits of connectivity and a sewage system the construction project would bring, ostensibly urging their audience to vote in favour of the road.

The road has been a source of tension that has divided the Muslim faithful. On Friday, worshippers tore down a temporary metal fence delineating the project after officials who came to “measure” the road last week immediately began construction without further consultation.

Sith Ybrahim, an adviser to the government and a Muslim who opposes the Phnom Penh municipality’s plan, maintained that the hastily convened event invited only those who already supported the project.

“It’s all a set up. The result was all pre-arranged,” he said, referring to a ready-made document declaring mass support for the project just after the vote was taken.

“The most important thing is the people – not their representatives. This commitment does not come from the heart of the people who attend the mosque.”

Ahmad Yahya, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs who has been sued for defamation over his criticism of the road, said yesterday’s events came as “no surprise” and stressed that lower-level Muslim leaders who supported the project likely did so out of fear they would lose their positions – which he said were appointed by the Mufti Sos Kamry.

Yahya – who defected from the opposition in 2008 – added that the dispute could have broader political implications.

“The election is coming. If they continue like this, the Muslim community will be divided,” he said. “The tradition of the people is to support the Cambodian People’s Party, but if we are divided, we don’t have that tradition anymore.”

Othsman Hassan, the orchestrator of yesterday’s meeting, said those who had previously opposed the development project were misinformed and believed a “particular group could benefit”.

Hassan’s foundation owns part of the land where the mosque was built, prompting criticism from Yahya, which sparked their legal dispute.

“They think now the road construction will not cause them loss, it will bring more prosperity to Muslim people – that is why they are happy and agree with the plan,” he said. “And after listening to the explanation, more than 90 percent of Muslim people in Cambodia are supporting this plan.”

Grand Mufti Kamry called yesterday’s meeting a “landslide victory”, while Sos Mousine said the voters were a “legitimate” representation of the Chams’ wishes.

Prior to the vote, multiple people from Kandal, Takhmao and Kampong Cham said they already backed the plan.

El Yokkob, 73, from Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, said he initially opposed the road, believing it would cut the mosque in two. “But now I support the plan, and building roads is in our Islamic religion. Muslims want roads,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.