Marching monk arrested and defrocked in Cambodia’s Battambang province

Venerable Soy Sat has called on the government to restore social ethics.
By RFA Khmer
2023.03.09
Marching monk arrested and defrocked in Cambodia’s Battambang province Soy Sat, 72, a Cambodian monk staging a peace walk across the country, was arrested in Battambang’s Moung Ruessei district.
Citizen journalist

A Buddhist monk walking across Cambodia to urge the government to restore social ethics was defrocked following his second arrest in a week by authorities worried about his supposed ties to opposition politicians

Police arrested Venerable Soy Sat in Battambang province’s Moung Ruessei district on Thursday and took him to a local temple where he was defrocked for being affiliated with the opposition Candlelight Party, said fellow marcher Sim Mao.

They also arrested marcher Cheat Kamara, but later released him after Soy Sat’s defrocking. 

“The chief monks told Venerable Soy Sat that monks are supposed to eat and practice religion and not be involved with politics,” Cheat Kamara told Radio Free Asia.

Soy Sat said monks are supposed to pay attention to society and advocate for good social ethics and harmony, he added, calling the monk’s arrest a “brutal” action.

Police asked Soy Sat to return to Phnom Penh and get permission from the Ministry of Interior to continue his march through Battambang province, but the monk refused, according to In Kongchit, a provincial coordinator for the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, or Licadho.

“Venerable Soy Sat refused to go back, so he was defrocked,” he told Radio Free Asia. 

Also detained in Pursat

The 72-year-old began his latest march on March 1. He was also stopped for several hours on Tuesday and questioned by police in Pursat province. Earlier that day, Soy Sat had accepted a food donation from Candlelight Party Vice President Rong Chhun, who was in the area for a party meeting.

Soy Sat told officials on Tuesday that he did not participate in Rong Chhun’s party meeting. He also said the march wasn’t tied to any political party. 

During a previous peace march in early February, Soy Sat walked with Rong Chhun and other demonstrators from Phnom Penh to Pursat. They had permission for that march from the Interior Ministry. 

Several days later, he was expelled from his pagoda in Kampong Speu province by the pagoda’s chief, who accused him of incitement and of trying to destroy peace.

Buddhist monks, who occupy their own social class in Cambodia and are given a great deal of respect by the public, frequently participate in demonstrations, but defrocking them is unusual.

The move comes less than five months ahead of an election showdown between the opposition Candlelight Party and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party. In the run-up to the vote, authorities have been arresting opposition figures on what critics say are politically motivated charges.

Support for the CPP has fallen in the past decade amid chronic corruption within the party and the government, which opponents say has led to human rights violations, deteriorating social ethics and a culture of impunity.

RFA could not immediately reach Battambang provincial police chief Sat Kim San for comment on the monk’s latest arrest. 

Translated by Samean Yun for RFA Khmer. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Matt Reed.

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COMMENTS

Don R
Mar 21, 2023 05:11 AM

The Cambodian government is among the most petty, insecure, and hypocritical in the world. And the weakling Western leaders are too cowardly to to grow a backbone and stand up to them. Time tell Hun Sen no more visas for your elites to travel to the West if you don't clean up your act. NGOs need severely audit Cambodia and everything they do. Cambodia should also be forced to refund the $100 million the UN spent on their war crimes tribunal which after 20 convicted a whopping... 2 people. No more free ride for this crooked joke of a government!