Opposition Demands Investigation of Monk Scuffle

The SRP, the Norodom Rana­riddh Party and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights issued separate statements over the weekend condemning Friday’s clash between ethnic Khmer monks from Vietnam, civilians, and local Buddhist monks outside Phnom Penh’s Wat Ounalom.

The SRP, NRP and CCHR all called for an independent investigation into the heated scuffle, which broke out when monks and civilians emerged from Wat Ounalom and attempted to block a peaceful march by some 50 Khmer Krom monks to highlight alleged religious oppression in Vietnam.

CCHR’s Ou Virak claimed that the local monks were acting on orders in their attempts to block the pro­test, and said that all the monks who participated in violence should be defrocked.

“People who resort to us[ing] violence are neither monks nor good citizens. They are thugs who need to be brought to justice,” CCHR wrote in their Sunday statement.

SRP Secretary-General Mu So­chua said that the Khmer Krom monk who traded shoves and angry words during the clash had been provoked, and therefore should not be defrocked.

Mu Sochua also said that the involvement of monks from Wat Ounalom, who she claimed had links to the ruling CPP, “is not a coincidence.”

The NRP statement called “the action of beating the Buddhist monks” reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge and called on the Ministry of Interior to arrest and punish offenders.

Great Supreme Patriarch Tep Vong, who resides at Wat Ouna­lom, said the confrontation would not lead to further intra-faith conflict.

He declined to respond to reports that monks from Wat Ounalom had provoked the Khmer Krom monks by attempting to block their march. “We don’t know whether they are real monks or not,” he said of the troublemakers.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that police—hundreds of whom shadowed Friday’s march—worked to control the situation and “safeguard security.”

The Khmer Krom monks had not been granted permission for the march, making it illegal, but authorities had not interfered, Khieu Sopheak said. “They are very stubborn, they don’t listen,” he said of the Khmer Krom monks.

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith denied Sunday that the government or the authorities were involved in violence against the Khmer Krom monks.

“The clashes erupted when the demonstrating monks insulted the monk who acted as mediator,” he wrote in an e-mail.

He added: “In most cases concerning the real problem facing real Khmer Krom, the Cambodian General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh will take the necessary contact with the [Vietnamese] authorities.”

Khieu Kanharith also said by telephone that local Buddhist monks are unhappy with Khmer Krom monks because they use “impolite language against the Vietnamese government.”

Youen Sin, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Bud­dhist Monk Association, said that he could not fathom how monks came to blows during a peaceful demonstration.

“It was beyond my belief,” he said, adding that the monks had worked against their own cause by participating in the violence, which left six monks superficially injured, including one monk who had been hit above the eye with a stone and required several stitches.

Trinh Ba Cam, Vietnamese Embassy spokesman, said Sunday he was too busy to speak to a re­porter.

(Additional reporting by Kim Chan)



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