Activist Monk Removed as Head of Pagoda

The Independent Monk Network for Social Justice held a press conference in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to condemn the demotion Sunday of the chief monk at a pagoda in Battambang province on what it claims were politically motivated grounds.

Kim Sam Oeun, who was removed from the top spot at the Phnom Pkhpos pagoda in Banan district, said he provoked the ire of local religious authorities for his involvement in land rights protests with other monks and the opposition CNRP.

“It is my right to help people that have been evicted from their land and chant for democracy,” Kim Sam Oeun said Monday.

At Tuesday’s press conference, But Buntenh, head of the Independent Monk Network, said Kim Sam Oeun was demoted because he allowed 11 monks from the network to stay at the pagoda.

He vowed to march in protest from Battambang to Phnom Penh if Kim Sam Oeun is not reinstated. Suon Bunchoeun, director of the provincial cults and religion department, said Kim Sam Oeun was demoted for his regular absence from meetings at the pagoda, not for his activism.

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