The chief monk at Phnom Penh’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda—a hotbed of anti-government activism—said on Monday that he had been summoned to appear for questioning over a “politically motivated” defamation complaint.
Thach Ha Sam Ang said he received the summons on Sunday. Dated September 8 and signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Sor Linna, it orders him to appear at the court on September 26 over comments he made on February 8 last year.
He said the summons, which does not name the plaintiff, was almost certainly an attempt to intimidate him ahead of the Pchum Ben holiday later this month, when worshippers are expected to flock to the pagoda to hear him speak.
“It was created with the intention to sew up my mouth so I’d stop talking about the political situation and the nation,” the pagoda chief said. “I did not defame anyone.”
“I simply help people who are affected by land disputes…and the Yuon foreign invasion,” Thach Ha Sam Ang added, using an often derogatory term for the Vietnamese.
“If you were the one who accused me,” he continued, directing his remarks at the unknown plaintiff, “you should send the summons to the Buddha before accusing me, a follower of the Buddha.”
Beyond his own rhetoric, the pagoda chief said, Samakki Raingsey is often targeted due to it being the home of dissident monks who shelter visiting land dispute victims hoping to convince officials in the capital to intervene on their behalf.
Judge Linna, who signed the summons, could not be reached on Monday.