On Tuesday, November 25th, Venerable Loun Sovath was summoned to the Phnom Penh municipal court. He was charged with “incitement to commit a felony” on account of his participation and support of demonstrations against ongoing land disputes around Cambodia.
At 7:30am, nearly 200 people (including monks and community members from Chi Kreng and Banteay Srei in Siem Reap, and Boeung Kak Lake) were gathered outside the court to support the amicably nicknamed “multimedia monk”. This is the first time a monk has been summoned to court without being defrocked beforehand.
In the courthouse there were a number of representatives from the international community such as DanChurchAid, Amnesty International, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), as well as European embassies such as Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, and the European Union (EU).
Around 9am, the court requested members from the public gallery to sign an attendance sheet. LICADHO reported that this was the first time they had witnessed members of the public being requested to sign an attendance sheet at an open trial. Some refused to sign it, including representatives from the international NGOs and embassy officials.
By 9:30am, the crowd of supporters had swelled to over 300 people as members of Democrats Association, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) supporters and youth, along with President of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), Vorn Pao, joined the demonstration. Activist leaders also started giving speeches with loud speakers attached to a tuk-tuk.
Less than an hour later, it was announced that the trial had been reassigned and a new case number had been issued. Venerable Sovath walked out from the court and spoke to the waiting media and supporters.
By 10:30am, over 400 supporters marched with Venerable Sovath back to Samaki Rainsy Pagoda where he has been staying for the past year.