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Monks, authorities in budget clash

by Cheang Sokha, Phnom Penh Post, October 6, 2008

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- NEARLY 200 monks from Sihanoukville's Entagnean pagoda have filed a complaint against the chief of the pagoda commission, claiming she stole pagoda money and used her office for personal gain.

Monk representative Bun Neng wrote to the Sihanoukville Municipal Department of Cults & Religions September 24, alleging that commission chief Pok Sophal had taken pagoda donations, raised by monks during Buddhist ceremonies, and then accused the monks of stealing the money.

"She was appointed [as chief of the pagoda commission] without agreement from the monks," he said, adding that Pok Sophal never attended meetings to discuss the development of the pagoda. "She respected only the chief of the monks, but the others never."

Pok Sophal denied the accusations, saying that the letters were sent on behalf of a few monks in the pagoda who envied the work of the commission. "I did nothing wrong and I'm not angry with the monks," she told the Post. "How can I commit corruption or nepotism like they say? The [commission's] decisions are made by the chief of the monks and the whole commission, as well as the finance officer."

Pich Sem, chief clergyman in the pagoda, said that the dispute between the monks and the commission was caused by envy and in fact there was no clear separation between collective costs and private costs in the pagoda's budget.

"There should be specific management and a clear separation," Pich Sem said. "They should not just think about personal interest. They have to be devoted to Buddhism, as they live in the pagoda."



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