Monk Trio to Be Banned From Pagoda for Anti-Gov’t Activism

Three activist monks are to be expelled from Wat Changkran Taprohm in Phnom Penh after invoking the ire of senior monks with their anti-government activities and courting of the press.

Yin Ratanaksotheavy, 35, Ly Channen, 47, and Seung Hai, 28, opened the pagoda, also known as Wat Stung Meanchey, three weeks ago to a group of villagers from Banteay Meanchey province who are in Phnom Penh to bring attention to their ongoing land dispute.

The trio of monks, who were on the frontlines of recent demonstrations against controversial comments made by a Vietnamese diplomat, were warned two weeks ago to cease helping the villagers and railing against the government or face expulsion, but ignored the threat and senior monks have now voted for their removal.

Although Ly Channen has already left the pagoda, returning to Canada where he previously lived, the two others remain defiant, holding a press conference to draw attention to their situation Tuesday.

Yin Ratanaksotheavy, the only permanent resident at the pagoda among the three, said he had done nothing wrong and insisted that the families, from Malai district, should be allowed to remain.

“I am doing all these things for the nation, and this pagoda does not belong to the chief monk alone,” he said, flanked by Seung Hai and three other monks who are supporting them.

According to the minutes of a meeting held September 13, acting chief monk Thai Bunthoeun and several other senior monks voted to expel the activists by a show of hands.

Thai Bunthoeun denied he planned to force them out immediately, but listed off a string of perceived wrongdoings, including insulting him and government leaders, claiming to be nationalists, holding press conferences, leading demonstrations and inviting villagers to stay at the pagoda.

“Why don’t they go to other public places rather than come here and cause this disorder in the pagoda?” he said.

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