Two monks were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district on Saturday for possessing a small amount of crystal methamphetamine, police said Sunday, but fellow monks and pagoda residents claimed the arrests were retaliation for the two taking part in political rallies.
Commune, district and military police raided the rooms of Dav Tep, 28, and Chea Vanda, 30, at Angtaminh pagoda in Choam Chao commune on Saturday morning after receiving reports that the two were using drugs, said Nhor Serey, deputy commune police chief.
“We found one [pair of] women’s panties and bra, cards in a bag, a sword and a knife in the room and a small pack of crystal ice under the bed,” Mr. Serey said, adding that he did not know the exact amount of drugs seized.
Mr. Serey said the two monks were defrocked Saturday afternoon and were being held at the district police station.
He added police also discovered that Mr. Tep had threatened to kill a pagoda boy, Chuon Ratha, 22, who subsequently filed a complaint.
“We did not push him to file the complaint and we read it for him to listen to and he agreed to thumbprint the complaint,” Mr. Serey said.
Contacted Sunday, Mr. Ratha said he did have a heated exchange with Mr. Tep a week ago over a disagreement about a container of fish paste and that the monk threatened to have him excommunicated.
The pagoda boy added that he only told police about the incident after they asked him and he reluctantly thumbprinted the document.
“I didn’t have any intention to file the complaint but I was scared about the monk’s threat to expel me,” Mr. Ratha said, adding that he tried to get the complaint dropped but was told he had to go to the municipal court to do so.
Mr. Tep’s roommate, Chhuk Buthoeurn, 21, said he had never seen either monk do drugs, and that the weapons confiscated by police were tools used for cutting wood.
Bo Bora, 26, another monk who has lived at the Angtaminh pagoda for seven years, said he believed the arrests were politically motivated.
“The two monks used to join protests at Freedom Park and in front of the Vietnamese Embassy and visited the border area,” he said.
Nay Vanda, deputy head of the human rights and legal aid section at Adhoc, said the monks at the pagoda told him the two were arrested for their activism as well as their close relationship with Soeung Hai, a vocal activist and monk.
“All of these reasons made [the authorities] angry and caused them to make the arrests,” Mr. Vanda said.
Eng Sorphea, bureau chief of Phnom Penh’s penal police, said the arrests were not related to political activism.
“The arrests have been made because there was a complaint from a pagoda boy,” he said.