Vow of Silence After Clash Erupts Over Local Monk

2 min read
Chief monk Mai Phalla, center, emerges after a meeting with the provincial department of religions on Sunday. (CRN News live24h)
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A contract pledging quiet has been signed by a bitterly divided community that saw hundreds of residents clash over allegations that the local monk chief pocketed the pagoda’s money.

Kork Ballaing commune, in Banteay Meanchey’s Mongkol Borei district, saw crowds of residents gather inside the Cha Thmey pagoda on Saturday, according to local reports and videos posted to social media.

According to an anonymous commune councilor quoted by newspaper Kampuchea Thmey, Mai Phalla, the pagoda’s chief monk, allegedly took money for himself and played favorites among residents as to who could sell wares inside the pagoda.

But Phalla, meanwhile, said in a video interview with online outlet M’lop Santepheap that a newly elected commune chief was simply interfering in the pagoda’s work and causing problems.

On Saturday, residents confronted each other in the pagoda: On one side were supporters of the monk, and on the other the supporters of the commune council, which wanted Phalla to step down, according to Kampuchea Thmey.

Videos from the day show high tensions, as residents push and shove one another and yell with their hands in the air.

A resident living near Cha Thmey pagoda said on Monday that she didn’t want to give her name as provincial officials had come to the community on Sunday and made the two sides sign a contract to stay quiet.

“If one side reacts to the issue again, there will be problems,” she said. “So I can’t provide any information regarding what happened.”

She had seen the contract, and it stipulated that the eight villages of Kork Ballaing commune must be silent, the resident said.

Deputy provincial governor Chhoeun Kreiyong said he was among those who intervened in the dispute on Sunday, and an agreement had been reached.

“We’re keeping him as the top monk at the pagoda. And that’s it. Everyone wins. No one loses,” he said. “The provincial administration and the department of cults and religions have ordered the top monk to transfer the money he controls to hold at the bank. Everything is returning to normal.”

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