Monks Appeal to Gov’t in Dispute With Hotel Developer

Monks at a pagoda on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva peninsula have appealed to government leaders to halt the Sokimex company from constructing a 3-meter-high fence around their compound as part of a $100 million, 5-star hotel complex.

Chea Nhim, 80, chief monk of the Sampov Traileak pagoda, which is home to nine monks, 20 laywomen and 20 residents, claim­ed that the land the new fence is on belongs to the pagoda and is used for gardening and housing.

“We appeal to the municipal governor [Kep Chuktema] to allow us 8 meters around the pagoda complex,” Chea Nhim said at the pagoda.

Chea Nhim added that the pa­goda sent a letter to National Assembly President Heng Sam­rin requesting that Sokimex stop building the fence until the dispute is resolved.

According to a copy of the letter, Heng Samrin stamped the letter “received” Sept 5.

On Wednesday, workers could be seen constructing the fence 5 meters from the pagoda compound, which is located on the peninsula across the river from the Royal Palace where Soki­mex’s subsidiary Sokha Hotels will build its newest development.

Svay Vutha, an assistant to Sokimex’s owner Sok Kong, confirmed by telephone that the company is building the fence, but referred questions to the municipality, saying it is City Hall’s responsibility to deal with the pagoda.

“We do not deal with the pagoda side,” he said.

Kep Chuktema said by telephone Wednesday that Sokimex holds a 99-year lease for the area surrounding the complex and that the monks have no right to the land.

Sampov Traileak is not a real pagoda, he added.

“Sampov Traileak building site is not a pagoda, but it is a holy site,” Kep Chuktema said. “There is no need to allow many monks and laywomen to stay in it.”

“Some monks also do stupid things,” he added.

However, Mohanikaya sect Supreme Patriarch Nun Nget said by telephone that Sampov Traileak is indeed a pagoda and should not be disturbed by Soki­mex’s development.

“I have not yet received the report today from Buddhist leaders in Russei Keo district, but the company must stop,” Nun Nget said, adding that the developer’s actions were especially disturbing because of the ongoing Pchum Ben ceremonies.

Pol Sam, 74, senior nun for the pagoda, said Sampov Traileak was established in 1954 and renovated in 2000 with permission from then-municipal governor Chea Sophara.

“It’s a great holy site for our Khmer nation,” she said at the pagoda Wednesday.


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