City Denies Request for Monk March

Phnom Penh municipal officials rejected plans for a Buddhist monk-led Sunday peace march, citing the possibility of “chaos” and “disorder.”

Monks Voeng Sovath, Udom and Ly Moniratna, all from Wat Ounalom, sent a request Thurs­day to the city to lead a peace march through the capital’s streets.

The city, in a Friday statement signed by Chief of Cabinet Mann Chhoeurn, denied the request, citing a sensitive political atmosphere. “The municipality apologizes that it cannot grant permission, but right now it is not the proper time to [hold a march] for fear that opportunists may stir up chaos, disorder and social instability,” the city’s statement said.

Senior Interior Ministry officials also said last week they were rejecting requests for dem­onstrations for fear of violence.

March organizers said they had expected about 500 monks and other “Buddhists” to join in.

Monks interviewed at local wats Sunday said they were not surprised by the rejection and that the government is keeping them from protesting against the July election result. “We should have the right to demand fairness for our votes,” one monk said.

The three monks interviewed refused to name themselves, but said they spoke on behalf of the march organizers.

Monks have participated in opposition demonstrations over the last two weeks, prompting the government to accuse the op­position of dressing supporters in saffron. The police last week targeted wats, sometimes using force to prevent monks from leaving or joining demonstrations.

The monks said they asked other monks to obey the refusal. “We canceled the march for fear that we would be accused of breaking the law,” one said.

The monks said that if they had pressed ahead with the march, they would have feared retribution from government operatives. They added that they will request permission two more times for a march. If both are rejected, they will hold the peace march anyway.

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