More than 70 Khmer Krom monks on Friday were prevented by police and villagers from holding a funeral for a fellow monk at a pagoda in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district, monks and rights workers said.
The monks had been hoping to attend a funeral for Eang Sok Thoeun, 33, who died mysteriously in Ang Snuol last month hours after attending a protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy. Police say he cut his own throat but rights workers believe he may have been murdered.
Traveling from Phnom Penh to Kandal in three buses Friday, the monks were slowed down by several police roadblocks along National Road 4, said Yoeun Sin, president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association.
The final roadblock was at the entrance to Tranum Chhreung pagoda where they intended to hold the funeral for Eang Sok Thoeun, who was found dead there Feb 28, he said.
Ang Chanrith, executive director for the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Organization, said the monks tried to hold the ceremony outside the pagoda instead.
“But unfortunately, we were only able to get 10 minutes into the ceremony before provincial police interrupted,” he said.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee issued a statement expressing “disappointment” at the incident.
The case “strongly violates freedom of assembly and cultural and religious rights recognized in the Constitution,” CHRAC said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak on Sunday denied police had blocked the ceremony, saying those responsible were local Buddhists.
District police chief Tith Vong declined comment. Chan Soveth, an investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said Eang Sok Thoeun should have been allowed proper funeral rites. “The ceremony is for a dead Buddhist monk, not for the death of a dog,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Kim Chan and Chhay Channyda.)