Buddhist Monk Told To Stay Away From Chi Kreng Trial

Religious authorities in Siem Reap province yesterday asked a monk not to attend the trial of nine men involved in a violent land dispute in the province’s Chi Kreng district last year, according to a senior monk.

Chuon Kim Leng, the second most senior monk in the province, said he had received complaints from court officials that Loun Sovath, a monk at Wat Sleng pagoda in Chi Kreng district, had disrupted proceedings at the trial on Aug 2.

The trial was postponed until Aug 9 after Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said he was too ill to hear the case.

“We told [Loun Sovath] he should not go to the court because he is a monk,” Chuon Kim Leng said, adding that he felt the monk’s actions could affect discipline among others.

Loun Sovath reportedly entered the courthouse on Monday and conducted prayers with several villagers, which disrupted proceedings, Chuon Kim Leng said. He said monastic authorities wanted to dissuade the monk from returning to the court when the trial starts again.

Loun Sovath said yesterday he had only sought to follow the trial.

“I only used my rights as a citizen to listen to the hearing and express some of my concerns over the jailing of villager,” he said.

The land dispute in Chi Kreng district escalated into a violent confrontation in March 2009, when police allegedly opened fire on a group of farmers who claim authorities illegally plotted to sell 475 hectares of their farmland.

Nine villagers are currently on trial for attempted murder over their alleged involvement in the dispute, while three others are being held on different charges related to the same dispute.

Loun Sovath claimed his superiors had threatened him with arrest or physical violence if he returns to the trial.

Provincial prosecutor Ty Sovannthal said said he had no objection to Loun Sovath’s presence in the courtroom, provided he had permission from the court president and followed the instructions of the court clerk.

“He has individual right to attend the hearing…. But if he commits any offense he can be arrested,” he said.


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