Only days after Phnom Penh City Hall announced it was investigating Wat Samakki Raingsey for alleged “anti-government acts,” a group of monks who live there said they were preparing to file a complaint with authorities accusing the pagoda’s leaders of organizing brutal assaults on them.
The pagoda is one of the few in the country that has dared to defy the Buddhist hierarchy’s orders to stay out of politically sensitive issues by offering shelter to out-of-town villagers coming to Phnom Penh with complaints of land evictions.
On Sunday, a city spokesman accused the pagoda’s chief monks of plotting secession and said an investigation was underway to find out if the facility was accredited and its monks properly ordained.
On Monday, Sot Chaya, a monk at the temple, said he and a few others were accusing the pagoda’s leadership—chief monk Seang Sovannara, his assistant Lay Lath, and acting chief monk Thach Ha Sam Ang—of ordering vicious attacks on them.
Sot Chaya said the trio ordered three other monks to assail him with knives and rocks on January 2 as they suspected him of trying to wrest control of the pagoda. He showed a reporter a long scar on his left arm, which he alleged was a wound from the assault. “They beat me and threatened my life,” he said. “And they did not beat and threaten only me, but also other monks.”
Sot Chaya said the pagoda’s leaders ordered attacks on seven monks. Four of them have endorsed the complaint and were waiting on one more to join before submitting it to City Hall and religious authorities.
Seang Sovannara was abroad and could not be reached. Thach Ha Sam Ang denied the allegations and accused the monks of taking orders from government officials.
“[W]e have never done anything like this,” he said. “We are monks; how could we beat him? There must be someone behind him giving him orders to cause chaos.”
Thach Ha Sam Ang said the Ministry of Cults and Religion had accredited the pagoda, but Khim Son, chief monk of the Buddhist Mohanikaya sect for Phnom Penh, said it had not.
Neither the minister nor a spokesman for the ministry could be reached.