Cham Muslim Families in Cambodia Threatened Over Ties to Political Opposition

Village leaders tell them they must support Hun Sen's ruling CPP or be expelled from their mosque.

Cham Muslim protesters in Phnom Penh hold posters showing support for Cambodia's ruling CPP, Dec. 30, 2016.

Eight families belonging to a Cham Muslim community in central Cambodia’s Kampong Chhnang province have been ordered by community leaders to end their support of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, with warnings given that they will be expelled from their local mosque if they continue.

One family member, Naong Matt, told RFA’s Khmer Service on Friday that local leaders Matt Mao and Tuon Sen had told him twice to stop supporting the opposition party and had urged him to sign a public declaration or “take an oath” at his local mosque saying he had done so.

They were joined in their demands by several leaders of the mosque in Svay Chuk commune’s Damnak Pring village, Naong Matt said.

“They said that if we don’t defect to the [ruling] Cambodian People’s Party, they will not allow us to hold religious ceremonies in the village, and they will throw us out of the mosque,” he said.

“I told them that I support the CNRP and many of its policies and see no problem with this, but they said that the case is out of their hands and that their orders come from higher authorities in [the government’s] Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs.”

Donors’ gifts of rice, noodles, canned fish, and soft drinks often distributed to Cham community members are now being denied to the dissenting families, some of whose members have stood for local election as candidates from the CNRP, Naong Matt added.

'Just join outwardly'

Also speaking to RFA, village leader Matt Mao denied Naong Matt’s charge of mosque leaders’ interference in the Cham families’ political ties, saying that their only concern is for “solidarity” in the larger community.

“I told [the families], just join the CPP outwardly. In your mind, you can still support any party you choose.”

“These families won’t stop, though, no matter what difficulties they face,” said Sin Sovann, CNRP vice president for the province’s Khmer-Islam movement. “They will still support the CNRP, because they love the party’s platform.”

Reached for comment, provincial department head for Cambodia’s Ministry of Cult and Religious Affairs Sar Leang denied knowledge of the dispute in Damnak Pring, but said he will order authorities to look into the case and have it promptly settled.

Reported by Sopheak Chin for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Richard Finney.