Pagoda Rejects City’s Claims of Violence

The head monks of Phnom Penh’s Wat Samakki Raingsey on Tuesday drafted a letter rebutting City Hall’s claims of illicit and immoral behavior at the pagoda, which has drawn the government’s ire over the past year by supporting evicted villagers from across the country.

On Friday, following last month’s fatal stabbing of one monk at Samakki Raingsey by another, the city announced that it had formed a committee to investigate alleged “anti-government acts” at the pagoda and find out if it was accredited by the Ministry of Cults and Religion.

The letter, which the pagoda’s head monks plan to submit to district and religious authorities today, rejects claims made in recent days by City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche that they have used violence on several occasions.

“The accusations against Samakki Raingsey before an investigation hurts the honor of the pagoda and the monks cannot accept it,” the letter reads, instead accusing the government of ignoring their requests for assistance.

“Sometimes the pagoda has asked for cooperation from authorities but the authorities seem to discriminate against the pagoda,” the letter reads. “For example, monks at the pagoda found monks using drugs in 2012 and the authorities did not take any action.”

The pagoda’s acting chief monk, Thach Ha Sam Ang, who helped draft the letter, said they would file a formal complaint against City Hall if it followed through on plans to send officials to the pagoda as part of its investigation.

“We are following the law and Buddhist discipline,” the acting chief monk said. “It is the law of the jungle that prevents monks from letting people stay at a pagoda or prevents them from protesting…. We have the right to express our views.”

Mr. Dimanche declined to comment on the letter and said officials would visit the pagoda this week.

“If the pagoda is good and legitimate, please cooperate with our [committee],” he said.

Thach Ha Sam Ang says Samakki Raingsey is accredited by the Ministry of Cults and Religion. But a ministry spokesman, Seng Somony, said Tuesday the pagoda has never been accredited because it was built on land that remains in dispute.

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