Residents of the dissident Samaki Rainsy pagoda in the capital have rejected a summons from Phnom Penh Municipal Court for Abbot Thach Hasam Ang and four monks to appear this week on charges of violence and defamation.
Hasam Ang could not be reached yesterday, but Thach Saray, who is acting abbot while Hasam Ang is away on business in France, said that the monks at the pagoda had unanimously decided to return the summons letter to the court.
“None of the monks could accept it, because the summonses were not properly filled out,” he said.
“We are accused of using violence, but when they [the authorities] came to investigate, they found nothing.”
Samaki Rainsy was inspected by officials in February, but City Hall has yet to announce any action against the monks. The pagoda has regularly provided shelter and safe haven to villagers from outside Phnom Penh who are embroiled in disputes with wealthy land owners, drawing the ire of officials.
Kim Bunnara, deputy prosecutor of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, could not be reached.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, said the court summons was a political move intended to “threaten the monks to stop protesting”.
The monks, many of whom consider themselves Khmer Krom and advocate for the transfer of what is now southern Vietnam to Cambodia, have taken part in several anti-Vietnam demonstrations over the past year.
“[The summons] is adversely affecting religious practice,” Sam Ath said.