The Seima Ream pagoda in Pailin municipality has become embroiled in a political power struggle, after the firing last month of the pagoda’s founding monk, Ek Moeun, local officials said.
Pailin Governor Y Chhen fired Ek Moeun, 64, on Aug 20 for allegedly encouraging immoral behavior and defying local authorities, said Sam Oung Pov, chief Buddhist and head of the municipality’s religion and cults department.
Ek Moeun allegedly allowed five monks from Battambang, Kompong Thom and Prey Veng provinces to stay at the pagoda and collect food at the local market without permission, Sam Oung Pov said.
Villagers in Sala Krao district’s Stung Kach commune collected a petition with 279 thumbprints, asking for Ek Moeun’s removal. But since the monk was fired, residents have collected a separate petition with 456 thumbprints, demanding Ek Moeun’s reinstatement, said 34-year-old local villager Nhiek Chon.
Ek Moeun founded the pagoda in 1996 and worked hard to develop the wat, collecting donations in Thailand for its construction, Nhiek Chon said. “They used a small reason to blame him and fire him from the pagoda,” he said.
Many monks remain loyal to Ek Moeun, but others are following his replacement, Heng Vanthy, 33, who was appointed acting chief monk by Y Chhen, Sam Oung Pov said.
Some believe politics are behind the power struggle.
Sam Oung Pov said that Ek Moeun has worked with Huy Huon, an SRP activist. Y Chhen could not be reached for comment Sunday.