Monks at a Phnom Penh pagoda being threatened with closure by City Hall over allegations of rampant violence and “anti-government acts” held a videoconference with supporters in Canada and Australia on Wednesday to rally support and reiterate their denial of the city’s accusations.
Last week, City Hall announced that it was launching an investigation into Samakki Raingsey pagoda to find out whether it had been accredited by the government, and whether its monks had been formally ordained. Samakki Raingsey’s top monks say the government wants to shut the pagoda down because it is one of the few in the country that stands up for families facing forced eviction.
On Wednesday, the pagoda organized a videoconference via Skype for some of its monks with two of its key supporters: Thach Ngoc Thach, who heads the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Federation from Canada, and Liv Pov, a Khmer Krom monk based in Australia.
The Khmer Krom are ethnic Khmer from Kampuchea Krom, a region of southern Vietnam that once belonged to the Khmer empire. Samakki Raingsey is home to many Khmer Krom monks.
Thach Ha Sam Ang, Samakki Raingsey’s acting chief monk, told the assembled crowd that the pagoda has only helped the country.
“We never oppose Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] and the government. We have contributed a lot to Khmer society to get rid of poverty and social injustice,” he said. “We welcome the [city’s] inspection, but if they come to throw the monks into the car…it would be unacceptable.”
Liv Pov took aim at comments City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche made to the media recently suggesting that the pagoda was planning a secession.
“The monks of Samakki Raingsey have no intention of staging a secession,” he said. “The Kampuchea Krom monks have suffered in Vietnam and came to Cambodia to stay at Samakki Raingsey. If he wants to bulldoze the pagoda and get rid of it, we cannot accept it.”
Mr. Dimanche declined to comment on Wednesday’s videoconference, but said municipal officials would visit the pagoda on Tuesday as part of their investigation.