As Buddhist monks across the country don saffron robes and leave pagodas in search of donations to fill alms bowls each morning, seven monks based in Dangkao district on the dusty outskirts of Phnom Penh are thinking only of feeding the country’s growing appetite for independent news.
By noon, when most monks are sitting down to their final meal of the day, the seven will have drawn up a list of stories on a large sheet of butcher’s paper, two will be out chasing the day’s biggest news and the remainder will be working on scripts and following the day’s events through Facebook and Twitter.
And before retiring for the evening, the team, all members of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), will have produced roughly 10 minutes of news and disseminated it through the IMNSJ Facebook page, which has more than 10,000 followers.
The project is a pilot for the scheduled February 14 launch of VIM (Voice of Independent Monks) Radio, a once-weekly, hour-long program to feature on 93.5 Mohanokor FM’s Friday afternoon slot, which, according to a 2010 International Republican Institute survey, has the capacity to reach more than 9 million listeners. …
Dissident monks and political activists hosted a ceremony Thursday for the protesting garment workers killed by military police during their repression of stone-throwing demonstrators on Veng Sreng Street two weeks ago.
The hourlong ceremony, held at the home of housing rights activist Tep Vanny in the Boeng Kak community, started at 9:30 a.m. with a procession of about 50 people who presented offerings of small sums of money, water, rice and noodles to some 200 monks at a shrine set up in honor of the five slain protesters, and the more than 40 other workers wounded during the January 3 demonstration.
After a short service by the monks, members of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ), people lit incense and toured a memorial inside Ms. Vanny’s house where pictures of four people confirmed killed by local rights group Licadho during the Veng Sreng shootings were displayed.
“The four dead will remain in our heart, and we won’t stand by and watch them die without getting justice for them,” Ms. Vanny told those gathered for the ceremony, which included family members of Sam Ravy, 26, and Kim Phaleap, 29, two of those killed.
“We demand justice for our workers who were killed and injured during their protest to demand higher pay,” she said. …
Kandal provincial court will this week summons five suspects held in detention since December 10 last year for a fresh round of questioning over relics stolen from Oudong Mountain last month, even as police said the investigation is now “quiet”.
Judge Lim Sokuntha said yesterday that he had no choice but to question them again after the investigation failed to determine the whereabouts of the missing artefacts. …
Resettlement studies are being carried out at the site of the proposed Stung Cheay Areng hydropower dam in Koh Kong province, officials said yesterday, amid suggestions that yet another Chinese company is now involved in the controversial project.
Tou Savuth, Thma Bang district governor, said staff from the Phnom Penh-based firm Social, Business and Khmer Research & Development (SBK) along with district and Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy officials had been working in the area since Friday. …
The team had already estimated that some 400 families in three communes would be relocated to make way for the dam, Savuth said.
China Southern Power Grid unveiled the 109-megawatt dam project in 2010 before later shelving it. Another Chinese company, China Guodian Corporation, soon took over the project, but details about proposed construction have since been unclear. …
Shane Worrell and Phak Seangly
Monks will spend days marching hundreds of kilometres to Phnom Penh from five provinces in the lead-up to Human Rights Day on December 10, the head of a dissident monk group said yesterday.
Departing in groups of 20 from Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Kampot, Pursat and Svay Rieng provinces on December 1, the monks will walk approximately 20 kilometres a day, Venerable But Buntenh of the Independent Monk Network said. …
During a small press conference yesterday, the founder of the Independent Monk Network said about 30 police officers came to Wat Botum two nights in one week, asking to search the premises for “bad men” who may be hiding there.
The visits occurred on the nights of October 9 and 14, But Butenh, the monk network’s founder, said. On both occasions, uniformed and plainclothes officers came to the pagoda after 8pm, and left without searching the site. …
Shows of force by authorities have become a common method of pressuring monks to keep a lid on political dissent in their ranks, according to Butenh. …
Sean Teehan and Buth Reaksmey Kongkea