Two Monks Arrested for Transporting Flags to Pagoda

Police in Phnom Penh arrested two monks Wednesday morning who were allegedly transporting two bags filled with bamboo poles on their way to the city’s restive Samakki Raingsey pagoda.

Most—possibly all—of the poles were attached to Cambodian and Buddhist flags.

Mao Savoeun, chief of police in Stung Meanchey commune, in Meanchey district, declined to name the monks and said they had been handed over to the municipal office of the Ministry of Cults and Religion.

“We just stopped and held them for a while before handing them over to the Phnom Penh religious department for questioning because we found them transporting two bags of bamboo sticks,” he said.

“It’s strange that they are monks, but were carrying a lot of bamboo sticks,” he added.

Men Heng Tith, bureau chief of the city’s internal security police, however, said the two monks “have been sent to the municipal police headquarters.”

Mr. Heng Tith declined to comment further and, like Mr. Savoeun, would not say what law the monks had allegedly broken.

Activist monk Luon Sovath, who was at the Samakki Raingsey pagoda, said the two monks were arrested about 50 meters from the front gates at approximately 7 a.m. and identified them as Thach Sang and “Vannak.”

Luon Sovath said both were peers of activist monk Soeung Hai, who was arrested at a demonstration on Monday, and were on their way to the pagoda this morning to join out-of-town villagers involved in a land dispute that had been staying at Samakki Raingsey ahead of a planned protest march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house and the National Assembly.

He said all of the bamboo sticks the two monks were arrested with were already attached to Cambodian and Buddhist flags.
A photo of the flags posted to the Facebook page of Justice Ministry Undersecretary of State Kim Santepheap seems to confirm this.

“There is no law banning Buddhist monks and common people from carrying the country’s flag and religious flags,” Luon Sovath said. “It is common for flag poles to be made from bamboo and plastic.”

He said that as of about 9:30 a.m., some 200 armed police, military police and soldiers were also stationed around the pagoda to prevent the villagers and monks from setting out on their march.

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