Police Defend Defrocking Act

A deputy police chief on Mon­day defended his officers who looked on as two monks accused of embezzlement were beaten and defrocked by angry villagers Sunday, saying they were acting according to the law.

Roth Roatanak, 26, and Roth Sokchinda, 22, cousins who were monks at Wat Sumpong Phal Ondet in Meanchey district, will appear in Municipal Court today for a preliminary hearing on charges they spent money raised for the wat, district police said.

Meanwhile, the Sam Rainsy Party, after initially claiming the pair were arrested for being party supporters, has now reversed its accusation.

Em Lim Hel, deputy police chief in Meanchey district, acknowledged that the 30 police who were sent to arrest the pair watched while the assaults and defrocking took place. He said it was against the law for the police to arrest monks while they are still wearing their robes, and therefore, they had to wait until the pair had been stripped.

Cambodia’s top monk, Non Gnet, who signed a complaint against the pair on Saturday, also requested that the police not arrest them until they were defrocked, Em Lim Hel said.

Non Gnet’s letter of complaint, signed Saturday, said the pair had confessed to embezzling about $1,570. The municipal prosecutor’s office signed a warrant for their arrest Sunday.

An Aug 11 letter from Non Gnet had ordered the pair to pay back half the money and to leave the wat, but by Sunday, they had not done so, Em Lim Hel said.

Local human rights workers examined the pair Monday morning and also found legal representation for them. The human rights worker said they had bruises from the beating, but were in otherwise good health.

Eng Chhay Ieng, the Sam Rainsy Party’s chief of cabinet, said al­though the monks were not party supporters as claimed Sunday, the incident was a clear violation of human rights.

“Right now we are cooperating with human rights groups in order to find a solution for them,” he said.

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