Activist Monk Allowed to Stay at Pagoda After Making Apology

An outspoken monk given 48 hours to leave a Phnom Penh pagoda on Thursday has been allowed to stay, but remains stripped of his position as head of one of the pagoda’s dormitories.

Keo Somaly, 34, a member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, was ordered to leave by midnight Saturday for allegedly punching and kicking fellow monk Long Chheng Hy, 29, according to the pagoda’s chief monk, Ngin Khim.

Keo Somaly said he did not harm Long Chheng Hy and accuses his superiors of using the supposed attack as a pretext to punish him for questioning Ngin Khim’s authority and participating in protests outside the pagoda.

“The chief monk warned me five or six times not to join protests,” said Keo Somaly, who was allowed to remain at Wat Neakavorn only after meeting with Ngin Khim on Saturday and apologizing for past arguments. “I apologized, but it does not mean…I have done anything wrong,” he said. “I apologized to the chief monk for inappropriate words I used with him.”

According to Keo Somaly, he was called to meet Ngin Khim on Thursday to explain his expulsion of Long Chheng Hy from the dormitory he oversees, which he says came of the younger monk’s habit of keeping his whereabouts outside the pagoda a secret.

Keo Somaly said when Long Chheng Hy turned up at the meeting with a student who began filming the conversation with an iPad, he became angry and told the student to put the device away. When he approached the student, Keo Somaly said, Long Chheng Hy hit him. During the scuffle, Long Chheng Hy bumped his own head against the iPad, Keo Somaly said.

Sim Sorn, second deputy chief monk, said the disciplinary action taken against Keo Somaly had nothing to do with his activism.

“We stripped him as head of dormitory because he has no unity with the other monks,” he said, confirming that Keo Somaly was allowed to stay at the pagoda because of his 11th-hour apology.

Ngin Khim could not be reached.

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