Home > Local News > Monk flees pagoda over fears of arrest

Monk flees pagoda over fears of arrest

A monk at Wat Ounalom in Phnom Penh on Monday fled the pagoda out of
fear of arrest by authorities for his participation in protests held by
Boeung Kak lakeside residents and villagers embroiled in a land dispute
in Chi Kraeng commune.
The venerable
monk Loun Souvath sits with residents of the Boeung Kak lake area
during a demonstration outside City Hall earlier this month in Phnom
Penh. Loun Souvath has been forced into hiding.
Photo by: Will Baxter
The venerable Luon Savath, ordained in
1990, went into hiding after returning from a protest in front of City
Hall at the weekend, he said yesterday, adding that police have
threatened him with arrest on four previous occasions over his
involvement in protests.

“The authorities have not only warned
me that they would arrest me, but have tried to get me defrocked by
calling me a fake monk who violates Buddhist rules of conduct,” he said.

Savath said that a police truck followed him back to the pagoda on
Sunday and that he saw police stationed near the pagoda before fleeing
in a car driven by staff at the United Nations Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights.

“I am not involved with Boeung
Kak villagers. I do not make problems. I was just observing the protest
to find justice for the people,” he said.

Touch Naruth, chief of
Phnom Penh Municipal Police, declined to comment yesterday. Chuon
Narin, head of the municipal penal police department, said he did not
know anything about the issue.

However, Phon Davy, director of
the municipal cults and religions department, said that Luon Savath had
not only joined with Boeung Kak lake protesters but others at Wat Botum
and in Siem Reap.

“That monk has violated the rules to such an
extent that the Great Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Tep Vong issued a
warning letter to ban all monks from joining protests,” he said

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for local rights
group Licadho, said Luon Savath has only monitored villager protests to
encourage them and blessed them for good luck.

“Targeting him is a serious violation of human rights,” Am Sam Ath said.

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