Activist Monk Charged With Weapons Possession, Incitement

A monk who was defrocked and arrested in Battambang City for posting a photograph of himself on Facebook supposedly holding a toy gun was charged on Thursday with illegal weapons possession and incitement, a Battambang Provincial Court spokesman said.

Horn Sophanny, 24, was arrested by a group of about 20 police officers after failing to appear in court in April over the photos, But Buntenh, a prominent activist monk, said on Wednesday.

Activist monk But Buntenh holds what he says is the fake gun defrocked monk Horn Sophanny posed with in photographs that led to him being charged with illegal weapons possession, outside the Battambang Provincial Court yesterday, in a photo posted to But Buntenh’s Facebook page.

Deputy provincial police chief Chet Vanny declined to comment on whether the gun in question—fashioned like a scoped rifle—was real or fake before hanging up on a reporter.

Court spokesman Seng Phanith said the monk was charged with unauthorized holding or transporting weapons and incitement to commit a felony.

Mr. Sophanny is a member of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice headed by But Buntenh, who on Thursday said he led a group of about 35 monks in a protest outside the court.

In a photo posted to his Facebook page, But Buntenh holds a plastic gun, claiming it is the same toy gun Mr. Sophanny was charged with illegally possessing.

He said in a telephone interview that the police and a deputy prosecutor told him to find the fake weapon to prove that it was indeed fake.

Activist monk But Buntenh, in red, and other monks gather outside the Battambang Provincial Court on Thursday in support of arrested and defrocked monk Horn Sophanny, in a photograph posted to But Buntenh’s Facebook page.

“But no one comes to negotiate,” he said.

A combination of “playing with a plastic gun and joking is just a minor mistake, but Mr. Sophanny should be re-educated based on Buddhist discipline,” he said. “The court is interfering with Buddhism.”

He said authorities were “using power and the law to suppress” their own people.

“We have no way to punish [authorities], because we are just people,” he said.

“That’s why we need to use our finger to elect a good prime minister and representatives,” he added, referring to the process where voters dip their finger in ink to show that they have voted.

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