A group of 500 people, including monks in Kandal province’s Lavea Eam district, protested on Monday over the alleged sale of temple land by six teachers to a rich businessman for $150,000.
Khoy Sreng, a villager from Pou Thom village in the district’s Arey Ksat commune, said six teachers had colluded to sell the land, which is in the care of the Sarika Keo pagoda chief monk, without informing the authorities, the local community or the monks.
He said the 100sqm of land is located near Sarika Keo pagoda and had been looked after by its chief monk since 1981.
In 1999, a group of teachers were allowed to use the land so students could be trained in crop cultivation. But in 2015, he said, many people expressed interest in purchasing the land, with the teachers about to sell until a public outcry thwarted the deal.
“They were about to sell the land in 2015, but we disagreed with that. They are selling the land once again, and this time they did not tell the monks or local people. They secretly got a contract from a high-up level."
“[When local people found out about the deal], they said it was pointless to protest as it had already been agreed. The people and the monks started protesting when they heard about this,” Sreng said.
Touch Piseth, Sarika Keo pagoda’s chief monk, said he had managed the pagoda for two years and did not intend to lose temple land.
Piseth also said that a previous chief monk had lent the land to the Pou Thom primary school to use, and now a group of teachers intended to sell the plot.
“In the past, I did not think that teachers could even think about doing such a thing, but once I heard about [the intended deal], I was very disappointed."
“The local authorities and people know that it is the pagoda’s land. I have no plan to file a complaint to the relevant authority just yet, as I will wait to see the stance of the people involved when they come to solve the situation.”
Arey Ksat commune chief Doch Chan said he had only just heard about the protest. “[Whoever] plans to sell the land, they did not inform me as the local authority, and I do not know where they got [permission] from.”
Neither Pou Thom primary school principal Da Ny nor Lavea Eam district governor Kong Sophorn could be reached for comment on Monday.