About 200 Cham Muslims turned out to the Al-Serkal Mosque near the old Boeng Kak lake in Phnom Penh on Friday to protest a controversial road that the government plans to build through the mosque’s land.
The planned road has already led to a defamation lawsuit being filed by Labor Ministry Secretary of State Othsman Hassan against Ahmad Yahya—his counterpart in the Social Affairs Ministry—after Mr. Yahya said Mr. Hassan had benefitted from a land-swap for its construction.
Both are prominent members of the Cham Muslim community. On Friday, Mr. Yahya led protesters against what he said was a minority of Phnom Penh’s Cham Muslim community who support the divisive road.
“Othsman Hassan and his groups want to build the road through the mosque, and our people oppose that. Our people say that if they want to build it, please let them build it—but do it along the fence and do not break our mosque’s land into two parts,” Mr. Yahya said.
“It will affect us through the noise because of the vehicles that cross. In a shrine, we need quietness.”
The opposition CNRP has courted the once staunchly-CPP Cham Muslim vote in recent years with some success, and Mr. Yahya accused Mr. Hassan of causing more Cham Muslims to turn away from the ruling party.
“The person who is destroying the CPP’s votes is Othsman Hassan and his group. I say this, and you can wait and see,” he said. “Please quote me on that.”
Mr. Hassan could not be reached for comment. But he was quoted in the Rasmei Kampuchea Daily newspaper on Sunday as saying that opposition to the road was being concocted.
“Our people see non-existent problems because of the incitement of this small group causing issues,” he said, claiming most of the Cham community supported the road.
City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada said the road would be built as planned. “This matter is an internal dispute between the Cham leaders. If together we think about the general benefit, this is not an issue,” he said.