Dissident Monk Buntenh Defies Summons, Citing Verb Choice

Dissident monk But Buntenh declined to appear for questioning on Thursday in a defamation case filed by popular radio host and Beehive Party founder Mam Sonando, objecting to the court’s procedures and choice of verbs.

“When the summons uses the monk word that is correct, I will go,” he said, referring to the court’s use of the layman’s word for “invite,” rather than a more formal equivalent intended for religious clerics.

But Buntenh during an interview with Radio Free Asia earlier this year.
But Buntenh during an interview with Radio Free Asia earlier this year.

“The court has shown injustice with such a word, so how can I go?” he asked.

The case stems from a video But Buntenh posted to Facebook and YouTube in April in which he says Mr. Sonando had spurned his former loyalties to the CNRP after failing to secure a position there for his wife.

When he filed the lawsuit in September, Mr. Sonando claimed the comments had impugned his reputation and “the hearts of my party’s supporters.”

But Buntenh said on Thursday that the court had not followed proper protocol to summon him.

“I did not go because I think it is the wrong procedure as well as the wrong word in the summons. And I never received the summons—I was just informed by telephone,” he said.

But Buntenh said complaints against monks should be routed to pagoda chiefs, not the courts.

“It’s not important whether I win or lose, but they have to use correct procedures, by handing off this case to officials in charge of monks. And if the official finds a mistake, he can submit it to the courts,” But Buntenh said on Thursday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said authorities will issue a second summons, while Mr. Sonando said the monk was “using a pretext to defend his mistake.”

But Buntenh announced earlier this month he was stepping down as leader of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice and away from environmental activism to pursue higher education abroad.

“I will do another job, but I don’t have big ambitions,” he said on Thursday. “I want to plant a few moringa and climbing wattle trees to fry with eggs when I get old.”

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