More than 40 villagers on Saturday gathered at the O’Damrey pagoda in Preah Sihanouk province to protest the eviction of a monk and the removal of the pagoda.
Morn Sina, a villager representative, said the provincial monk authority and the provincial cults and religion department want the pagoda removed so the land could be returned to Stung Hav district authorities.
Mr Sina said the pagoda is small and was built 20 years ago. He said villagers invited monk Mann Pheakdey to live in the pagoda in case villagers needed religious services.
“The provincial monk chief and the provincial cults and religion director asked monk chief Mann Pheakdey to provide a thumbprint for an eviction letter on Saturday,” Mr Sina said.
He added that the land the pagoda was built on has been contested since 1999 by rich and powerful people who want it.
“I think that it is unjust that the provincial monk authority and the provincial cults and religion department director are forcing a monk chief to leave from that pagoda,” he said.
Venerable Pheakdey, the monk, said he was invited to live in the pagoda in 2009. He said that when he first arrived, he was one of two monks. However, due to the dispute with the district, the other monk left.
“On Saturday, I was told to provide my thumbprint on the letter and leave the pagoda,” he said, noting that if he did not agree, he would be defrocked.
“I am not demanding anything, but please all sides must wait for a resolution on the land to be provided by the court because this issue has yet been solved,” he added.
Ven Pheakdey said villagers requested provincial Governor Yun Min to intervene in the case, in which Mr Min replied that the provincial monk authority and the provincial cults and religion department must wait for a court decision.
“The provincial governor has allowed me to stay in the pagoda until the land issue is solved,” he said.
Kang Dinath, director of the provincial cults and religion department, said he was not forcing Ven Pheakdey to vacate the premises.
“We did not force him to leave, we only requested that he leave because the land is being disputed,” Mr Dinath said. “The place is not an official pagoda because the government has not sanctioned it.”
Mr Dinath said he will comply with Mr Min’s instruction.
“The provincial governor has requested us to wait,” he said. “The monk is allowed to stay there.”
Mr Min could not be reached for comment yesterday.