Aug 17, 2015

Khmer Krom: Mass Protests Threatened After Activist Monks Arrests


After the arrest and defrocking of two Buddhist monks in early August, the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association has threatened to stage large rallies protesting this action, unless the charges against the two men are dropped. The two men were well-known political activists, lobbying against the government in land disputes which have caused great harm to the Khmer Krom community. Their arrests have sparked accusations against the government of politically-motivated persecution and police misconduct.


Below is an article published by the Khmer Times:


PHNOM PENH – The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Buddhist Monk Association has slammed the August 1 arrest and defrocking of two monks, accusing police officials of detaining the pair on baseless and politically motivated charges. 

If the charges are not dropped the association will stage large rallies until they are, it said on Friday [14 August 2015], alleging police misconduct had corrupted the case. The two former monks – Dav Tep, 28, and Chea Vanda, 30 – were charged on August 3 with drug abuse, attempted murder and possessing fake documents, after a raid of their dorm room at Ang Taminh pagoda in Choam Chao commune.  

“The raid was carried out without search and arrest warrants,” said Venerable Thach Ha Sam Ang, the abbot of Wat Samaki Rainsy. The two former monks were not present when the evidence against them – which included a small packet of crystal meth – was found, the abbot said. “Almost all cases of the arrest of Khmer Kampuchea Krom monks are politically motivated,” he added, explaining: “They care about territory, social justice, and the repression of human rights.”

The two were arrested just days after returning from an inspection visit to the border with Vietnam in Svay Rieng province that was led by opposition lawmakers.

The Raid

During the August 1 raid, police said they found a packet of white powder, a knife, sword, wooden stick, women’s panties, cards, condoms, lottery tickets, pornographic CDs and three mobile phones in the room the monks shared at Ang Taminh pagoda. The raid was carried out following a complaint by a pagoda boy who subsequently tried to recant his testimony. His request was refused. 

On July 25, Mr. Tep had scolded the pagoda boy for breaches of etiquette and threatened to expel him from the pagoda. The boy subsequently called district police and listed a number of offenses he claimed the monks had committed. “I didn’t make a complaint to the police until August 1. That day, police raided room 04 of Venerable Dav Tep. After seeing the evidence, they forced me to make an official complaint against him again and again,” the boy wrote in a letter to police asking them to withdraw the complaint.

“It is a violation of an individual’s rights to force someone to file a complaint,” said Son Chum Chuon, leader of Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association. He said the raid had been planned. The defrocking and charges were intended to send a signal to activist monks. “It is intended to threaten Khmer Krom monks from taking part in land disputes, border issues and other issues related to human rights,” Mr. Chum Chuon said.

Activist Monks

The two former monks were well-known activists who have advocated on behalf of those involved in land disputes, as well as the dispute over the border with Vietnam and alleged repression by the Vietnamese government of Kampuchea Krom communities in that country, the Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association said. 

The police also took the law into their own hands by defrocking the monks before charges were laid against them, the association said, adding that the police had encroached upon the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Cults and Religion. That ministry should file a complaint against the Interior Ministry for violating its jurisdiction, Mr. Chum Chuon said.

“The arrests will deter monks from standing up for the causes of Kampuchea Krom,” Venerable Sam Ang said, referring to a section of Vietnam that contains a large ethnically Khmer population. Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak referred questions to the National Police, who did not respond. 

Kampuchea Krom monks are free to express their views, but this is a criminal case, said Seng Somony, spokesman for the Ministry of Cults and Religions. Police are enforcing the law, he said, adding that according to his report the pagoda’s board had called for the monks to be defrocked.


Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbera @Flickr