Monks on ‘Peace Walk’ Block National Road to Protest Ill-Treatment

Monks marching toward Phnom Penh to mark International Human Rights Day on Tuesday in front of the National Assembly have continued to receive a cold reception from some pagodas along their way and blocked a national road Thursday afternoon in protest.

About 100 marchers, including several monks, were blocking National Road 5 in Kompong Chhnang province as of Thursday evening, when a pagoda in Kompong Chhnang City refused to let them spend the night.

“We have blocked the road since 5 p.m. and we are still sitting and standing on the road because local [pagoda] authorities did not allow us to stay,” said Sar Mora, president of the Food Service Federation of Cambodia.

“Monks at the pagoda had agreed to let us stay, but authorities opposed it and they locked all the monks’ houses,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Venerable Bun Buntenh, who heads the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice and helped organize the march, said the pagoda had reluctantly agreed to let them spend the night, but only after first refusing out of fear of running afoul of local authorities.

Pagoda officials could not be reached for comment.

Provincial traffic police chief Ea Bunthoeun said the pagoda refused the marchers shelter because they did not seek or receive prior permission.

“The marchers have blocked the road because they were angry with the monks in the pagoda who closed the front gate to not let them in because they did not ask for permission in advance,” Mr. Bunthoeun said.

“Me and my police are now working to ask them to leave the road and let traffic pass.”

A total of approximately 100 monks set out on the 10-day “Peace Walk” on Sunday from points along five national roads, hoping to hand over a list of human rights grievances to both CPP and CNRP lawmakers upon their arrival at the National Assembly.

Top-level religious authorities oppose the marches, however, and several pagodas along the routes have denied them entrance.

The Venerable Keo Somaly, among 19 monks and 80 supporters heading toward Phnom Penh along National Road 3, said Thursday that a pagoda in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district had refused their request to stop for lunch, but the group entered and stayed anyway.

“The pagoda committee people refused when we asked to stay for lunch under a big tree today, but we did not listen to them because we had no other place to stay,” the monk said. “I think the committee did not want us to stay because they accused us of being an opposition group.”

Related Stories

Latest News