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Rifle-toting monk again denied bail

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times Share:
The picture that started legal troubles. Supplied

The Appeal Court on Thursday continued to detain 24-year-old former monk Horn Sophanny, who was last month charged with illegal weapons possession and incitement to commit crime.

The higher court upheld Battambang provincial court’s detention warrant, rejecting Mr Sophanny’s request for bail as investigations into his alleged offences continue.

The offences stem back to the night of April 9, when five armed men shot dead Venerable Sum Sitha, 44, the chief of Roleak Kandorl pagoda in Kratie province’s Chhlong district.

Five days later, Mr Sophanny posted a photograph of a machine gun on his Facebook page, saying: “If the killers dare to come to my pagoda, I will use this machine gun to kill them!”

He also posted a picture of himself sitting on the floor of Wat Damrey Sar pagoda, holding the machine gun as if ready to shoot.

That photo was widely distributed on social media and was said to have deeply offended Buddhists.

Police later arrested Mr Sophanny. A samurai sword and machete were discovered in the monk’s room following his arrest and he was quickly defrocked.

Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith said the court rejected Mr Sophanny’s request to be released from prison because the investigation into his actions was ongoing.

Choung Choungy, a lawyer for the former monk, claimed Battambang provincial court’s detention warrant was illegal because the law does not ban people from possessing plastic rifles or samurai swords.

Venerable But Buntenh, president of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice, led a protest last month at the provincial police office and outside the court, claiming the gun was only a plastic toy and that Mr Sophanny was being persecuted for his social activism.

“He just played with a plastic gun, it is not a big mistake,” he said. “Why did they need to defrock him and charge him so quickly? There is no need,” he said at the protest.

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