A senior Buddhist monk who struck two junior monks on Saturday morning because of their plans to participate in the opposition CNRP demonstration at Freedom Park, defended his not-so serene actions Sunday.
Three monks, Sam John, Hem Pheaktra and Nget Visa, who live in Meanchey district’s Wat Sansamkosal, said they were about to leave their pagoda to attend the demonstration when the pagoda’s first deputy monk chief, Yim Chamroeun, swung at their heads and faces while holding a mobile phone in his clenched fist.
The venerable Sam John and Ham Pheaktra were hit but Nget Visa said he managed to duck the Buddhist chief’s blows.
“He held his cell phone in his hand and he hit Pheaktra in the face four times, and then he hit me once,” Sam John said. “He did not want us to join the demonstration.”
A little bruised and chastened by the attack, the three said they waited until later to quietly leave for the demonstration.
“I want to find justice for those who lost their votes in this election,” Ham Pheaktra said of their persistence in attending the peaceful rally, which was attended by hundreds of monks in saffron robes.
Contacted Sunday, the Venerable Yim Chamroeun said that he had hit the young monks—all three are 20 years of age—because they were skipping morning classes at the pagoda, adding also that monks should not protest.
“I did not want the monks to take part. We must remain neutral for the citizens and for the people who are Buddhist. We should not take part in politics so that the people will continue to trust us,” he said.
Sam John said that he and his two colleagues do not plan to press criminal charges against Yim Chamroeun, who has agreed not to intimidate them further.
Cambodia’s main Mohanikay Buddhist sect has strong ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s CPP ruling, but after the party was hit by a major loss of support in the July 28 national election, monks have been a regular presence at opposition rallies.
Hundreds of monks turned up at Saturday’s mass demonstration.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said monks, as every other citizen of the country, had the right to express their opinions.
“They have the right and duty to seek justice for the people. So they should always be able participate in any demonstration or protest or gathering,” he said.