A defrocked monk arrested in Phnom Penh earlier this month for the alleged possession of weapons, fake documents and crystal methamphetamine told the municipal court Wednesday that he and a fellow defendant never possessed any of the contraband.
Chea Vanda, 30, and Dav Tep, 28, who have taken part in opposition protests since the 2013 national election, were arrested at the Angtaminh pagoda in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao commune on August 1 after local police said they received reports that the two were drug users.
Only Mr. Vanda was questioned Wednesday, and while leaving the court, he said he had repudiated the claims against him.
“I denied all the charges, because I did not commit any crimes,” he said. “These charges are unjust…and they should not have put me in jail and made me suffer.”
According to police, the monks were caught in possession of a pair of women’s underwear, a bra, a sword, a knife and a small amount of methamphetamine. But Mr. Vanda said Wednesday that he knew nothing about the items.
“I am a clean person and I had just come back from a Buddhist chanting ceremony and I did not try to escape because I did not commit [any crime],” Mr. Vanda said, recalling the day he was arrested.
During Mr. Vanda’s questioning, more than 30 monks and about 20 other supporters gathered across the street from the municipal court, chanting: “Release! Release! Release!”
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, accused the judiciary of being complicit in efforts to punish the monks for participating in recent opposition demonstrations.
“I think that this [case] has irregularities and that the arrest of both the monks was planned,” Mr. Sam Ath said, noting that the two monks had attended a CNRP-led trip to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province on July 19.
“We know that currently, the hot issue is the border, and that’s why there was the arrest and detention of these two monks,” he said.
Investigating Judge Y Thavrak could not be reached.
Correction: The headline on a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Chea Vanda stood trial on Wednesday.