Monk Convicted of Consuming Drugs; Jail Sentence Suspended

A monk was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence and fined $100 for using drugs after he and five other monks from the Stung Meanchey pagoda were brought in for questioning at the Meanchey district police office on Friday, according to police.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced monk Ros Sovanna, 26, along with Leng Ratana, 26, a layman who lived at the pagoda, over the same drug conviction Sunday, according to Chim Sitha, acting Meanchey district police chief.

“We led local police to crack down on those monks after we got the report from local people on Friday afternoon,” Mr. Sitha said, adding that police did not catch any of the monks in the act.

“As we checked the monks’ house, we found empty ABC beer cans, small empty plastic [bags used for drugs], a knife, a boxing glove under the monk’s bed and some condoms in the monks’ bags.”

The convictions follow the arrest and imprisonment earlier this month of two monks who stand charged with participating in a criminal organization after being apprehended while carrying bags full of flags attached to bamboo poles. The pair was planning to join protesters from Preah Vihear province in a march through Phnom Penh to call attention to their land dispute.

The monks and rights groups say that the arrests were meant to intimidate other monks living at the pagoda, who offer shelter to disgruntled villagers from around the country to bring their grievances to the capital.

Yen Rotanaksotheavy, an activist monk living at the pagoda, said the evidence in the latest case was falsified.

“The authorities used the beer cans that boys collect…to sell and made it look like proof to arrest the monks—this is not just,” he said

He said the arrests were part of ongoing efforts to stifle the monks’ regular involvement with protests over human rights abuses.

“Police did that to threaten the monks in this pagoda to stop them from joining demonstrations…and to threaten hundreds of other monks to not join social activism.”

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