Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Khmer Krom chief monk in K Cham arrested for allegedly violating COVID-19 measures

Pang Soda, former chief monk at a pagoda in Kampong Cham province speaks to his rowing team during the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Picture taken on November 13, 2019. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan
Pang Soda, former chief monk at a pagoda in Kampong Cham province speaks to his rowing team during the Water Festival in Phnom Penh, Picture taken on November 13, 2019. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan

A chief monk from a pagoda in Kampong Cham province who was defrocked on September 2 but restored to his position two days later, was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday reportedly for violating measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pang Soda, chief monk of the Kirivongkot Boreyserey​ Phnom Penh pagoda, also known as Wat Phnom Penh Thmey, located in Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Loeu district, was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday and sent to Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1. But the specific nature of the charge against monk Pang Soda is still unknown.

Plang Sophal, deputy prosecutor and spokesman of Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s Prosecutor section, declined to comment. Suos Vithyearandy, spokesman of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, did not return a request for comment.

Bun Mony, president of the Friendship of Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association, said on Thursday that Soda “was sent to detention at the prison yesterday.”

Mony said that the court charged him with violating measures preventing the spread of COVID-19.

But he said Soda’s case does not seem clear as the monk was defrocked on September 2 and then restored to his position on September 4.

“I request the relevant authorities, please release him to allow him to have freedom like other people,” said Mony.

Soda is originally from the Khmer cultural region traditionally known as Kampuchea Krom, which is now part of Vietnam, and is reportedly active in the Khmer Krom community in Cambodia.

Khim Sorn, who is chief monk of Phnom Penh as well as chief of the secretariat of the Mohanikaya Monk Order, said that he did not know what Soda was charged with but said that a day after Soda was restored to his position he called to say “he does not become a monk and he is a normal person.” 

Monk Sorn said that he asked Soda what was wrong, but he did not tell him.

On September 7, FreshNews interviewed Soda, who told the online news outlet that he had been defrocked after having some relations with women, and saying it was his mistake and he was leaving the monkhood.

Srey Sopheak, director of the Kampong Cham Provincial Cult and Religion Department, said that he does not know why Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to detain Soda.

He said after he and the provincial monk authority received the information from him through FreshNews, the provincial monk authorities announced it was appointing another monk as acting chief monk instead of Soda and.

“After we received Pang Soda’s announcement through FreshNews that he is not becoming a monk again, the provincial monk authorities prepared to appoint a new chief monk and two new deputy chief monks to lead that pagoda,” said Sopheak. 

Son Chumchuon, lawyer and senior legal adviser at Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association, said he just heard that Soda was detained but doesn’t know what he was charged with.

Yin Kun, chief of Prey Sar Prison’s correctional center 1 could not be reached for comment, while Nuth Savna, spokesman of General Department of Prison at Interior Ministry declined to comment saying, “I do not know about this case because I could not know all cases because there are many new inmates was sent to the prison.”

Seng Somony, spokesman for the Ministry of Cults and Religion declined to comment, saying he was too busy.

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