Activist monk But Buntenh faces lese majeste rap

Cambodia’s prominent Buddhist monk But Buntenh is facing a lese majeste charge initiated against him by litigious politician Pich Sros over comments the former made in a radio interview pertaining to King Norodom Sihamoni, according to The Phnom Penh Post Online on Thursday (March 1).

In the interview with Radio Free Asia on Tuesday night (Feb 27), the activist monk accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of allowing Vietnamese residents to live on the Tonle Sap in exchange for Vietnam’s help in overthrowing the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

But Buntenh was quoted to have said:  “Nowadays, the Khmer in Phnom Penh and some Khmer in some provinces drink Vietnamese urine because they urinate in the river, defecate in the river and we use the river water.  So, every day, those who drink Vietnamese urine are not only the prime minister, but also the King drinks it too.”

Buntenh’s comments were published on government mouthpiece Fresh News and the website of the Cambodian Youth Party of which Sros is a founder.

Sros said the monk should be punished for looking down on the King.

However, the lese majeste law which was passed by the National Assembly less than two weeks ago does not become effective yet pending it signing by the King.  It carries a prison term of 1-5 years and/or a fine of 2-10 million riel or $500-$2,500.

The monk on Wednesday repeated his comments to Phnom Penh Post.  He defended his comments, saying he was only referring to those who are in Cambodia illegally and pollute the river.